After more than a year of carefully swerving on paths to maintain social distance from fellow dog-walkers, many of us have missed the joyful exuberance shared at a big dog gathering.
Now we can have the best of both worlds thanks to the series of Big Dog Walks being held at stately homes and country parks across the country over the coming months.
The events combine Covid-safe treks ranging from 2km to 10km, with an Event Village that includes a “dogstacle course” to test their agility, and a fun dog show where they can compete to steal the heart of the judges, which at the recent walk at Belvoir Castle in Nottinghamshire included TV host Michaela Strachan.
Michaela Strachan, left, hosts the dog show at Belvoir (credit: Big Dog Walk)
There’s also a charity tie-in, with walkers encouraged to get sponsored for their chosen distance, and the organisers have teamed up with welfare charity Dogs Trust as their official partner. Dogs Trust even has some free tickets left for fundraisers at events later in the year.
Anyone who raises at least £50 will get an exclusive Dogs Trust bandana for their walking buddy.
There is a special puppy walk at 10am for people who want to socialise their new pets with other puppies in a safe and controlled way.
New friends are made in the paddling pool (credit: Big Dog Walk)
And for nervous dogs, or those who are out of the habit of being around others, the ‘beat the rush’ walk starts at 8.30am to ensure a more gentle beginning to your day.
There are also food and shopping tents, with products on offer including fresh-baked dog treats, new accessories and local produce. Experts will be on hand to offer advice ranging from dog welfare to insurance cover.
Each walk has a leader, and participants can pause on the way at various pitstops where water bowls and shade will be on offer.
Food and drink on offer at the Event Village (credit: Big Dog Walk)
Two walks have already been held and the next is on Sunday June 13 at Borde Hill just north of Haywards Heath in West Sussex.
Walking slots can be booked online, and the Borde Hill event still has tickets available, although some timed slots have already been booked out.
Organisers have staggered arrival times in place to manage social distancing, and will insist on a two-metre - or as they put it “two Great Danes standing nose to tail” - distance between humans. Handwashing stations are on-site and all the exhibitors will have completed a Covid-19 risk assessment ahead of their participation.
Ready to model the free event bandana (credit: Big Dog Walk)
Entrance is £10.50 for adults, and children under 16 go free. This includes a Big Dog Walk bandana, a rosette and digital certificate for completing your walk, treats for your pup, free parking and entry to the Borde Hill estate.
A spokesman for Big Dog Walk said: “We have had wonderful feedback from both walks.
“Belvoir Castle Big Dog Walk was our first event since our world was turned upside down by Covid and so it was extra special to see everyone coming together and enjoying a fabulous day out with their dogs.”
The other Sunday walks planned for 2021 are:
- June 27: Harewood House in Yorkshire
- August 22: Pollok Country Park in Glasgow
- October 3: St Clere Estate in Kent
- October 17: Hylands Estate in Essex