Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Oh boy

You know you have one of those great ideas, that turns out to be, well, not so great? Well, the idea was to walk the lurchers home from the garage as the car is in for its MOT. We have moved recently and the walk would take them through their old patch - Denton Dene.
It started off fine: Rover stealing a ball off a labrador and both dogs having a whale of a time. Then It happened. Rover had gone towards the ponds and I called him back. The smell actually preceded him in a wave. We met a couple walking their spaniel and they noticed too. I now have to walk the length of Benwell with Public Health Hazard No 1 on the end of a lead. Heads will turn. Those of weak constitutions may blanche and faint. Pray for me, for we may be chased away with brickbats.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Midsummer - state of the ponds

Well, it may be a cooler day, but the top pond in the Dene is now waterless, though still damp. Ponds two and three still have standing water, but the fourth is as waterless as the top one.
I rarely go past the ponds, as they are a bit of a detour, but today is an exception. I thought I would see the effects of three or four weeks without significant rain and high temperatures (dare I call it summer? Of course I do). There is still a seepage of water coming from the spring lines, just not enough to keep all of the ponds going.

The dogs miss the water in the top pond as it is generally fresher then the others if they need a drink on a hot summer's day. Never mind though, it is nearly Hoppings week (even if they are no longer calling that) and the peonies are coming into flower, so we should be due a good downpour any day now. 

Outsider art in Denton Dene

I know I occasionally rail on about the damage I see done by presumed youths in the Dene, so to balance that (pun noted in hindsight) I thought I would share this little gem of youthful creativity.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Four is a crowd

This week has been a bit of a handful, to say the least. We were going to be looking after my son's dog Ebony, then we were told we were not. I therefore thought nothing of agreeing to walk my little friend Homer while John was away.
As luck would have it we ended up with Ebony on Tuesday, so I am walking four dogs again. On Tuesday Homer thought I had brought him his birthday present; he was quite smitten. For her part, Ebony was playing the floozie, shoulder bumping Homer as they walked along and licking his chops. Since then the interest has waned, thankfully.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Two dogs in a boat

I had the boys with me today, and the weather was fine, so we headed up to Warkworth on the beautiful Northumberland coast. In order to unbounce the lurchers for the visit to the castle which followed, we went for a little walk along the Coquet beforehand.

I knew about the little hermitage a little way out of town, but I didn't say anything about it to the boys in case it was out of bounds to lurchers. So I let them have a little romp about in the woods, then put them on the lead when we came to a field.

(Always obey signs telling you to put dogs on leads or not to enter with dogs when in the countryside, even if you are on a right of way.)

We got to the chap with the boat and asked if it was ok to cross with the dogs. The boys got in first, then I went down with the dogs. Although they were both keen to follow the boys, Rover was a little unsure about getting on the boat, and I think they both had reservations about sitting still in the boat as the bank swung out and away from them. Getting off was the  same, with Rover being unsure about getting on to land. Of course they had it all to do again on the way back.

I think on the whole they endured the experience well, it was just one of those strange unnatural things that their human pack mates insist on doing from time to time.

We saw a heron fishing in the shallows on the way back to the castle. Which was nice.

In the castle, the dogs must have thought I had gone quite mad. The boys certainly did. I know Warkworth Castle like the back of my hand, having stayed there over several weekends re-enacting 17th century life. It has loads of hidey holes and back stairs, so I was able to give the boys the slip and reappear somewhere else where they did not expect me. The only problem was that I had two lurchers attached to me, and their panting kept on giving me away, or they would put their heads round corners if they heard the boys. Ah, youth!

I hope the photo appears with this blog. Sometimes they don't if I try attaching a picture from my phone.

Friday, 31 May 2013

Campion and forget-me-not

A lovely summer day in the half term holiday means it is a great excuse to get out of town with boys and lurchers. We came for the bluebells, but who csn resist the charms of forget-me-nots, seen here with equally delightful red campion and some sort of umbillifer.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Where are the ents when you need them?

I was shocked to see the tree in the picture. Not because it is a fallen tree, as there are any number of them in the Dene, but because this tree has been systematically pulled down for no good reason. Denton Dene is well managed in that trees that fall are allowed to lie and to rot down, which is advantageous to wildlife.
This tree was in the prime of life and could have filled a gap in the canopy if an older tree had died. In an ideal world the little orcs that did this would be trampled into the ground by an avenging guardian. Sadly, ents are only a literary wish fulfillment of a writer who loved trees and who really felt that Birnam Wood should have really risen to attack Dunsinane.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Oh what a beautiful day

Well the hot weather has finally reached the north east. It was nice yesterday, but today is the real thing. Vest, shorts and sandals for me and splashing through muddy ponds for the lurchers. Said ponds are beginning to dwindle as the summer finally gets under way, but there are still four separate identifiable ponds in the dene.

Tuesday, 30 April 2013


It is also a great time of year for wildflowers, as you can see here in Sugley Dene.

Yes, the lurchers and I are having a long lazy walk today.

The greening of the understorey

It's a beautiful morning here in Denton Dene and we can see that all of the shorter trees in the wood are coming into leaf. This part of spring is their chance to grab at the sunlight while their loftier neighbours are still slumbering.

It's May tomorrow; hal-an-tol, jolly rumble-oh!

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Hodgkin Park

Today, as a treat for both the dogs and the boys, we went to Hodgkin Park in Benwell. I have to admit it was as a treat for me too, as I misspent my childhood in Hodgy Park.
It is undergoing a major facelift; they have removed the shrubbery and left the trees. They have reclaimed the Victorian stream, though without the paddling pool. They have put in some really great play equipment and a basketball court, which was being used to play football when we were there.
The boys had great fun down by the stream, much as we did when we were their age, except it was all overgrown then and the only bridges were fallen trees.
The picture shows the reclaimed Victorian fountain. I was very pleased to see that they have set up a gravity fed system to work this.
The mallards in the picture got a bit of a scare when Amazon decided to jump in and join them. Thankfully the water was either too cold or too deep, so she climbed straight back out.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Spot the lurcher

Can you see my camo lurcher? Today is dull and cold with a brisk northeasterly and the dogs' colouring blends in with the colours of the woodland floor.

I was in two minds this morning as to whether to pick up tje winter woolies. I am so glad that I did! It is still snowing in a desultory way. It is strange to think that even though it has only occasionally bothered to lie and it has thawed quickly when it has, it has actually snowed here every day for at least a week now.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Goodbye Max.

When the dogs and I were heading out on our walk today, I had a chat with John, a friend from down the road.

Last year I walked his two dogs for a while along with the lurchers. There was Max, a beautiful and very large American Mastiff, and Homer, an endearing, if somewhat pugnacious Staffordshire Terrier.

John had been concerned about Max's weight but was unable to get him on long walks. He knew I used to be out for about an hour with my dogs, so he thought I might challenge him.

It went well; I showed Max that I meant business and he loved Denton Dene. Homer had a couple of scraps with Amazon before conceding that she was the boss. We became a familiar sight to the residents of Denton Burn; there aren't many people who would walk four such willful dogs. Rover and Amazon would be pulling to be ahead, Max would be dragging his feet behind, and Homer would range between the two positions sniffing everything and leaving his mark everywhere. I think that it was good for Rover to be around them, because he learned how to be a boy dog during that time.

I stopped walking them when I started teacher training in September, so I lost touch apart from the occasional sighting  Max was always pleased to see me if he was in the yard, standing up and saying hello. I knew that something was wrong about a month ago when he struggled to rise. John said that he had fallen out of the back of his car and had not recovered well.

Two weeks ago I got a call from John asking if I could bring my trailer round because he couldn't get Max in the car to get him to the vets. Unfortunately we had just sold the trailer, so I was unable to help. He said that things did not look good, that he thought this was it.

So when I saw him today, it was no great surprise that there was just Homer with him. Max had cancer in his chest and shoulder and it was just too much for him to get up, so John sadly agreed to let him be put to sleep.

I know how much John loved his big friend and I know it has been hard for him to get over his death. I will certainly miss the big fella, and will cherish the memory of our walks together, however frustrating it may have been to keep the old guy moving. As you can see from the pictures, he loved to have a wallow in the water when the Dene ponds were full. He would stick his face into the water and blow out bubbles, then bring his head up, snort for a while, then do it all over again.

Goodbye Max, old friend.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Snowy day

I've just downloaded an app on my phone for blogging on the go, which lets me take pictures and comment on them as I go out with the dogs. Here you can see the slope down to Denton Dene and the bin that the yobs have dug out and thrown across the path. You can also see that it has been snowing!

Friday, 18 January 2013

Paws in the snow

This week has been very cold - I doubt that the temperature has been higher than 1°C all week and morning temperatures have been as low as -5°C. This has meant that although we have had no significant snow since Tuesday, there is still a substantial covering everywhere, and the footpaths are covered in treacherous trodden snow.

The immediate impact is obviously the outward journey. Rover and Amazon are always very keen to get to the point of the walk where they are allowed off the leash, so they see it as their job to get us all to that point as soon as possible - stopping for a sniff aside. I can curb the worst of it, but in icy conditions this has serious  implications if I need to pull them in at the same time as I step on a friction free surface.

Thankfully the upper bridge has been gritted this time, which makes a nice change. Even the section on the far side that gets no sunlight is passable with care. Quite what prompted this gritting is unknown, as it is unprecedented. Although I would like to think that it was gritted by someone involved in the maintenance of the bridge, I think it may be a private act by someone as sick of risking their neck on the bridge as I am.

In the Dene, the walk has been transformed. A good covering of snow brings a more mature, but still very excited response from the dogs. I was watching a documentary about wolves some time ago and remember them saying that it was with the coming of snow that wolves' hunting success increases. Watching Rover and Amazon in the snow makes me believe that something of this has passed down in the genetics of dogs, for they were looking for rabbits with especial interest today, scouting out all of the likely places. Rover would occasionally peel off to run around in circles, and he even jumped up at me, which he usually does not bother to do, so he caught me off guard.

There were few other dogs around today. There was a bull dog that wanted to come when I whistled for R & A (which is more than they did) and I saw twice (at a distance) an Old English sheep dog who is a regular.

As I was turning for home, the sunshine that I had been enjoying all morning was darkened by a rather pregnant cloud which was coming in from the east, and I expected a resumption of the snow (it has been forecast, although it is mostly expected to hit the south, the Midlands and Wales. As it turned out, the cloud passed over and the day is again bright.

Very glad to get back home and put the kettle on!

Monday, 14 January 2013

Wow, has it been a year?

I've just been reading over the last two posts from January last year and it may seem strange, given that this was always Lurcher Tales, that it should be Holly's death that stopped me from regularly posting.

So, what has changed since then? Well, Owain and Becky moved out not long afterwards, then moved again. They have another dog now, a Collie/ Chocolate Lab cross, called Ebony. They also got married in October, which was nice.

I started teacher training in August, but it was not to be. It is one thing to think that you would make a good teacher, but quite another to actually be one. So I am back at home and walking the dogs every day again while I try to find something else.

Rover has his own Facebook Page, courtesy of my daughter. Apparently he is a Public Figure. I cannot argue with that! He will probably get more Likes than my Author page on Facebook before too long.

So, today's walk, what can I say? I have to admit that there were long sections that I was very distracted, so I was a little unobservant. This largely stemmed from me playing over a conversation in my head that I missed the opportunity of having with a couple of men with Newcastle City Council high vis jackets outside Broadwood School about the ongoing disrepair of the school wall.

If I had been blogging through the summer I would have had a good few interesting observations to report. In the North East we suffered a lot of damage from a storm that the local press imaginatively named "Thunder Thursday." The day after we discovered that there had been a massive build up of water on Broadwood Road with the result that the school wall collapsed and the pent up water rushed across the playing field, following a natural low point, and cascading down into the Dene. A 10-15 metre section of wall had been taken out and the remaining wall on either side buckled inwards. The Council very quickly responded by installing a temporary metal fence on both sides of the damage, but they have done absolutely nothing since. There is a bin behind the fences that is now inaccessible and has not been emptied in months - I do not envy whoever has the task of eventually emptying it! More importantly, it is another bin removed from use and that is not a good thing for a conscientious dog walker!

Speaking of bins, I was just looking at the state of the one in the Dene next to the Number 38 Terminus (which has been uprooted again) when I realised that I still had Rover and Amazon on the lead and they were looking at me strangely. It was probably a good thing, as it happens, as they normally hare down there looking for squirrels and there was a lot of nasty large glass fragments. I walked them past these and then let them off.

I woke up a bit after that, but the snow meant that most of the time my head was down. Occasionally I would stop and look about, for the snow was just beginning to lie and it was quite a gentle fall with little wind. The Dene is too soggy and dead at the moment to really provide much in the way of inspiration, but it was nice to see the stuff come down. I always find a snow covered landscape to be so beautiful and the Dene will hopefully be so much more appealing if this does settle. The snow that fell yesterday evening was gone by midnight and the forecast is being understandably canny about whether any more precipitation will be solid or liquid.

I passed one or two other dog walkers today, mostly as buttoned up and distracted as myself. There was a little Jack Russell who always lies down when he sees Rover and Amazon and stays that way until they pass. There was a pair of Staffies who seemed well socialised and there was another small dog whose owner cheerfully announced to me "It's going to lie" - talking about the snow. Oh, and not forgetting the old shaggy dog that Amazon was very nice saying hello to.

The pair of them were well behaved passing The Alsatian House, from which there came a very welcoming smell of woodsmoke. As often as not Rover wants to stick his nose under the gate and get barked at and Amazon causes a fuss by barking at Rover and snapping at him. I put Amazon on the near side with a long  lead and Rover on the far side on a short lead. I think this may be the winning formula, but we will have to wait and see - it may have been a different matter if either of the Alsations had been near the gate.

Well, that was the walk. I don't think I will be back to daily blogging, but I might do one or two a week if anything that I find interesting happens.