Hestercombe's gardens are now open for visits 7 days a week ~ but you must book a ticket online before you travel. Read our updated opening information
Written by Katlyn McDonald
Attracting over 11 million visitors a day, the county has long been a popular destination for dog walks in Somerset, from those looking for serious hikes to those looking for a gentle amble. The countryside boasts opportunities for everyone seeking to reap the benefits of walking in nature… including the dog. With proper attention to safety and the Countryside Code, there’s every reason to include your dog in your hiking adventures.
Whenever you plan to take your dog walking somewhere new, it’s advisable to check that your planned trip is dog-friendly. While it’s possible to walk your dog in much of the countryside, you want to be sure that there aren’t any areas in your trip where your best friend won’t be welcome, and if you plan to stop for lunch, it’s handy to know of places that welcome dogs in advance. Similarly, while you may be allowed to cross farmland with your dog, it’s a good idea to bear in mind the time of year and the types of animals that might be about: a field that’s empty in winter, for example, might be filled with lambs in the spring.
Plan too for your dog’s capabilities - if they’re not used to walking long distances, start with a shorter route, and see how they fare. If you’ve never taken them on a difficult trail before, avoid steep areas at first: acclimatise them to countryside walking before you introduce them to anything too difficult. If your dog has any health or mobility issues, take these into account, and if you’re in any doubt, check with your vet before your trip.
If you’re out walking for the day, you’re likely to pack water and provisions for yourself without a second’s thought: make sure you do the same for your dog. You can’t guarantee that you’ll find suitable places for them to get a drink during your adventure, so a collapsible bowl and spare water are essential. If you’re planning a long walk, make sure you have snacks for your dog so that they can keep their energy up throughout the day. It’s useful to have treats available too, so that you can reward good behaviour in the new environment. Make sure you have plenty of plastic bags to pick up any dog waste, and pack a comb in case anything gets stuck in their fur.
Even if you’re used to walking your dog on a flexi-lead, make sure you bring a sturdy lead or harness with you: it’s important that you have absolute control of your dog in order to ensure their safety and well-being in the countryside. Also remember any items that are particular to your dog: if they require medication, make sure you have it with you, and a favourite toy can keep them occupied if you stop for lunch. A towel’s a good idea too to keep muddy paws out of your car.
If the safety of your dog is half of the equation, respecting the countryside around you is the other. Familiarise yourself with the Countryside Code before you embark on your adventure, so that you can enjoy your walk without worrying about whether you’re following the correct etiquette. Watch out for signs that mark areas in which dogs are forbidden, and ensure that they’re always on a lead on farmland. If you’re ever in any doubt as to whether they are allowed to walk freely, it’s best to keep them on the lead.
Be sure to clean up after your dog at all times, and keep any waste with you until you find a suitable place to dispose of it. Be aware of other walkers while you’re out: make sure your dog is under control at all times, and be mindful of any potential wariness others may have of dogs.
The local countryside is rich in rewards for human and dog walks in Somerset. With adequate preparation and consideration, there’s every reason for your dog to join you on your walking adventures!
Hestercombe Gardens is dog-friendly including the gardens, cafe and shop - and we welcome dogs of all shapes and sizes (and their owners, of course!)
Check our opening times and entry prices.