Today we needed a grassy place to walk the dog, one with easy access to the grass that didn't involve walking across a lot of pavement. And of course it needed to be livestock-free, and no surrounding wooded areas to entice Sparky to chase squirrels, thus re-injuring his paw and allowing him to become more focused on squirrels than on our recall efforts.
A week ago he injured his paw pad while chasing squirrels in Black Park, one of our favorite walking spots. My husband, who stayed with him while I was away, noticed he had an easier time walking on the grass after that, so he kept him home and exercised him in the back garden. A few days later, he took him to the Camp, where he could easily access the grass, but Sparky ran off after squirrels in the trees that surround the Iron-Age hillfort, and re-injured his poor toe. Back to the back yard, for several more days.
But this is a dog who really needs his exercise, and by today we couldn't see any redness on his toe. So we cast about for safe places to go. We thought of the Long Walk, which is a great spot in Windsor Great Park for walking and horseriding, but there's a paved lane down the middle. After poking around on the web, I found the parallel Queen Anne's Ride in Windsor Great Park, which doesn't have any paved areas and with a single line of trees at the sides of the "lane", it seemed like a perfect place, at least from Google maps. There even appeared to be off-road parking right next to the area, right off the A332.
So we loaded up the dog, our whistles, our super-duper recall treats (this time it was roasted chicken) and we headed to Windsor. I had heard that the Queen sometimes walks her corgis on Queen Anne's Ride, but when we got there there were very few walkers on the long grassy stretch, and none of them seemed the least bit royal.
It was perfect—fenced, for the most part, on either side, with about 50 or 60 yards between the fences, and an endless stretch before us. This served to keep Sparky relatively close to us, though he really wanted to cross into the open fields on either side of the fences. And worryingly, there were two horses and riders, in the deer park on the other side of the fence. Sparky looked interested, but he came right away when we called him over to us, and he never barked at the huge beasts, even when they took off at a trot.
The few dogs we came across, he simply ignored, and they gave up on engaging him pretty quickly. Our only problem came when we saw what looked to be sheep off to the side when the fence on the right ended.
Sheep would be a disaster for our part-Border Collie. So we leashed him up, and approached the area carefully, both of us peering through our thick eyeglass lenses to see what those prone spots were in the grass.
Boy were we embarrassed when we realized the "sheep" were actually tufts of daffodils.
(In our defense, daffodills here are REALLY big and fluffy!)
We let Sparks off lead again, and he happily ran through the field, ignoring the threatening daffs.
At the top of the rise, we looked back, and there was Windsor Castle, in the distance. I suppose the Queen is busy with Easter duties this weekend, though she spends most weekends in Windsor, with the corgis, as many tourists who've seen the Royal helicopter land during a tour of the castle can attest.
Though the weather was miserable for Easter weekend—in the 40s, and overcast, we were glad to get out and have a proper walk. Once again, we realized how lucky we are to live in southern England, where the only threatening lifeform is a clump of prone daffodils.