Having a dog in London is tough. Anyone who has ever been on a train from London Bridge at 5.30 in the company of a massive dog (I have), will know just how difficult it can be. The last thing a commuter wants to see on a wet tuesday night is a slobbering, gormless-looking alsation peering out from the one space there seemed to be available on the train. Plus, London is full of very smart and logically-minded people who are fundamentally dismayed by man’s obsession with domesticating this particular animal whilst eating its way remorselessly through most others. And those people are right to be dismayed. It is weird. And cities are ostensibly inappropriate places for animals that don’t use toilets. And most London flats are barely big enough for humans. And isn’t living in a city stressful enough without looking after a dog!?
But then again, have you ever thrown a stick in a London park on a beautifully sunny day, and had that stick retrieved and returned to you repeatedly by a canine friend? Our obsession with dogs is a bit like capitalism (it isn’t but just go with it). It is full of hypocrisy and paradoxes, and is almost certainly unhealthy, but it’s here and it’s not going to disappear, so perhaps it’s better just to pretend it isn’t unhealthy and go and either max out a credit card, or take a dog to one of London’s many brilliant dog-walking spots! Here are my favourites…
Peckham Rye Park, East Dulwich/Peckham Rye
In terms of dog-walking, this park really is the ‘dogs genitals’. It features a cafe in the centre that serves great coffee, and even sells dog treats. It’s a huge park with excellent open-spaces for a bit of off-the-leash action, and best of all is full of dogs. It’s also a great place to meet other dog-owners: it never ceases to amaze me how much nicer people are to me when I’m with a dog. One might deduce from this that people prefer dogs to me. More than possible.
Abney Park, Stoke Newington
A beautiful and fascinating garden cemetery, and now a woodland park and local nature reserve, Abney Park is a great place to go in its own right. Add a dog to the equation, and you’ve reached utopia. There is so much to see here with mausoleums and elaborate tombstones everywhere, but also, a mass of undergrowth for dogs to explore. You really could spend a whole dog day or afternoon here quite easily (ouch)
Richmond Park, Richmond
Just think Benton. Much like their owners, the dogs here are ‘old money’, and it’s great fun trotting around amongst them. There’s an egalitarian and unifying quality about having a dog, and you’ll notice a real camaraderie here. I chatted with a man that was almost certainly a Viscount, but our dogs bridged the gap between us. Not all the cafes or bars nearby are dog-friendly though so beware – nothing worse than taking a dog into a bar that isn’t ‘dog-friendly’.
London Fields, Hackney
Green spaces here date back to the sixteenth-century, and the rugged greenland and woodland is absolutely ideal for the foraging canine. A good place to let the dog off the lead and socialise with his friends too. London Fields is a great mix of paths and grassy areas, so you can easily combine dog-walking with some running and exercising.
Brockwell Park, Herne Hill
The undulating slopes of Brockwell Park make for an excellent place to walk your dog. Huge open spaces and very responsible owners make it ideal and stress-free. The Florence Pub, directly opposite, is extremely dog-friendly too and at weekends resembles Battersea Dogs Home if it had a bar.
So those amongst you fearing that dogs and London aren’t compatible fear not. I’ve barely scratched the surface here, and you can find more great tips for places to walk dogs and more advice besides on the excellent London Dog Forum. London’s fantastic array of parks are ideally suited to dog-walking. And trust me, having a dog can provide valuable respite from this often stressful, dog-eat-dog city. Sadly I haven’t fitted in the phrases ‘top dog’ or ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ anywhere. Otherwise it would have been a clean sweep. Wait a minute, wasn’t Sweep a dog, as in Sooty and Sweep? Ok I need to stop writing. Now.
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