Oct 7
Ingleton
icon1 Paul | icon4 10 7th, 2014| icon32 Comments »

Due to a very sad family event we ended up spending a few days in the north of England near the Lake District.  I was on solo Beagle-sitting duty for one of those days, and I took them a little way across the country to the famous Ingleton Waterfalls Trail. I had nothing but good memories of Ingleton from numerous visits as a kid, so it seemed like a great place to take our furry children and pass the day.

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The trail is about four miles long and winds through woodland and traditional Yorkshire countryside, passing by a number of impressive waterfalls. For the most part it’s pretty much the perfect place to walk a Beagle, or even two Beagles; it’s sniffy, scrambly and long enough to make a fulfilling walk, yet at the same time it’s very safe, easy to navigate and of course easy on the eye.

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Near the start there’s a fallen tree absolutely covered in two pence pieces. For some reason visitors started pushing coins into the bark and soon it became “the thing to do”. Beanie seemed quite excited by the money tree; maybe she realised how many chews all those tuppences could buy. I don’t think Biggles was very impressed though. If that tree had been covered in socks it might have been worth something, but coins? I mean when was the last time anyone knicked a coin, took it down the corridor by the bedroom and successfully traded it for a dog biscuit? Yep, coins have no place in a sock-based economy.

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Stones..

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Steps..

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..And more steps. Ingleton’s hard work if you’ve got short legs!

At one point we came to a walkway above a gorge. The floor of the walkway was a metal grid, and as I approached it I fully expected Biggles to refuse to set a paw on it. As a rule my boy doesn’t like grids, and he especially doesn’t like walking above sheer drops into noisy, raging water, but this time he calmly trotted across it and poked his head through the railings for a good nosy. Beanie on the other hand got barely a yard in before she froze and needed lots of gentle coaxing to go further. This took me completely by surprise. I sometimes call Beanie “Spider Beagle” because she can lower her body and spread her legs out wide enough to clamber across just about anything – cattle grids, widely spaced wooden boards, even those special “dog-proof” grids they sometimes put at the entrance to child play areas. She really does look just like Spiderman when she does this, albeit Spiderman with big floppy ears and a hound costume. Nevertheless something about this particular walkway was a real challenge for her, but eventually she overcame her fear and was duly rewarded. Biggles got rewarded too of course, ‘cos that’s just the way it works.

About half way into the walk we passed by a public toilet block adorned with messages enticing walkers to “spend a penny”. Well, you know how it is; I got maybe twenty yards past them before all those messages awakened a need within me, but like most Beagle owners I don’t like tieing my pups to something and letting them out of my sight even for a couple of minutes. On top of this, I was aware that very few other walkers were on the trail that day, so the toilets were almost certainly empty. Taking these two points into consideration, I decided that we should all go into the loo together. Now The Bigglet is a public loo veteran (he went into the Ladies with Susan when he was a pup) but this was a completely new experience for the Beanster, and she was instantly fascinated by the urinal, and most especially by the little yellow deodorizer blocks within it. You’d be surprised how difficult it can be to “take care of business” when there’s a curious girl Beagle trying to get her snout into places it shouldn’t go. Or maybe you wouldn’t.

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Beanie takes a moment to ponder on her recent lavatorial experience. What would those yellow scent blocks have tasted like? And would they have been toxic enough to merit a trip the vet (which is always a good thing)..?

There’s another fallen tree near the end of the walk that’s covered in broken pieces of slate, and people have taken to scratching their names into them. Naturally I couldn’t pass this without making our own little contribution:

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Later that evening we stopped by Kendal Castle, peed on its broken walls, woofed at passers by, and had a play fight perilously close to the tripod during a twenty second exposure.

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The following morning the play-fighting continued in the caravan. This may have been Biggles’ way of celebrating his freedom from having to be the campsite warden. Ordinarily it always falls to him to enforce the many and complex rules concerning hats, hi-viz vests, umbrellas, people in shorts and waggy Spaniels, but on this occasion his work was done for him by another Beagle. No, not Beanie! This was an unknown lemon/white Beagle in a different caravan. Whoever that Beagle was, he/she knew exactly how to keep order, indignantly perching on the top of the seats by a window and woofing (appropriately) at all law breakers, just like our hard working boy himself.

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Ha! I can’t believe it! I don’t have to be the warden, Beanie!

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What a relief!

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So I was thinking.. can I munch on your ear instead?

 

Sep 22
Mugshots 2014
icon1 Paul | icon4 09 22nd, 2014| icon313 Comments »

I’ve got into the habit of taking portraits of our two Beaglets each year around their birthdays. I like to have a record of how they’re changing through the years, and anyway it’s usually good fun. This time around though it proved to be a little more painful, and a lot more costly, than on previous occasions.

I started out with an action shot of the Biggly boy doing what he does best – grabbing socks. I turned our little gym room into a set with a washing line, socks and old-school sprung wooden pegs, and then when all the lighting was ready, let his Biggleship in to see it. I was somewhat concerned that being a contrary little Beagle he might just refuse to go after the socks while the camera was on him, but no, he got straight to it. In fact he snatched the socks with such enthusiasm that I got hit right on the forehead by one of the spring pegs!

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Back when he was a very little boy, Biggles used to be possessive and growly over anything he grabbed, but with the help of a behaviorist we turned this around and the “Biggles Exchange Program” was born. Ever since then he’s been the perfect little canine entrepreneur, eagerly gathering up loose socks and other unguarded items and exchanging them for treats and tummy tickles. In times of recession (like when we got a bit better at picking up dirty clothes and popping them into the “to be washed” basket), he adapted, learning to open my underwear drawer and nicking clean socks instead. So I guess it’s understandable that a few lights and cameras wouldn’t put him off a solid business opportunity!

When we moved on to his more traditional portrait session, Biggles was equally business-like. Initially he only let me have one click of the shutter before he dived down off his comfy buffet and demanded a biscuit in payment. It took some pretty tough negotiation involving dried fish cubes and part of a chew before I finally got him to hold still for three shots between treats, but it was worth it.

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And this is one of the outtakes, but he looked so cute I decided to keep it..

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Beanie – who’s going to be seven(!) in less than a month – was the most surprising this time around. In previous years she behaved like a stroppy fashion model, complaining about the conditions and the amount of time the shoot was taking. Judging by the amount of wailing and woofing that occurred, I think she also had dreams of embarking on a singing career. This time around however she was almost perfectly behaved, calmly jumping up onto the buffet and holding still for as long as I wanted. I did say “almost perfectly behaved” of course; at one point while I was reviewing her shots she stuck her snout in my pocket and nicked my stash of poo bags. I recovered them, but the next day when putting said bags to use I discovered that she’d put some holes in them. Still, one very thorough hand wash later I was good to go again. Word to the wise: never shake hands with me when I’ve been walking the dogs!

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Sep 8

Until our recent trip to the Isle of Kerrera, Beanie & Biggles probably considered themselves to be experts when it comes to ferries. They’d ridden on them twice to Arran and once to Iona, and those trips had taught them everything they needed to know, specifically: (1) ferries have railings that are wide enough apart for you to stick your head through and most importantly (2) they have seats. Seats are great because the resourceful Beagle can forage around underneath them, often finding discarded sandwiches, crumbs from cakes and biscuits, and on a really good day, the occasional chip. You can imagine their surprise then when we told them they were having another ferry ride, but they ended up on this thing..

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It was small, open to the water at one end, had no railings for nosey Beagles to stick their heads through and worst of all, no seats. I mean what use is a ferry like that?

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I am not impressed Dad. Not impressed at all.

To his credit, Biggles tried to make the best of the situation. With no seats, perhaps there’d still be some foraging opportunities in the captain’s cabin? He strode confidently towards the doorway, but even this meager hope was denied him; apparently there’s some silly rule about cheeky Beagle boys not being allowed to captain passenger ferries (not even boys who’ve recently turned six years old). To make matters worse Beanie noticed a big orange ball thing on a rope giving her the evil eye and had to woof at it. In the end the only good thing about the ferry ride for the Beagle contingent was that it was over quickly.

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Finally back on dry(ish) land!

The ferry issue was bad, but there was an even bigger problem with the Isle of Kerrera itself.  While researching it as a location for a day trip we’d considered almost everything about it, except its primary industry: sheep farming. Needless to say it was absolutely overrun with sheep, and it wasn’t long before Beanie & Biggles felt the need to speak out (rather loudly I might add) about this woolly infestation. They were both silenced, albeit briefly, on the approach to an old wreck on the coastline.

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It wasn’t the imposing sight of the wreck that shut them up, but rather the noises coming from a nearby house equipped with an aviary and a dog with a booming voice. Susan figured it was the dog that left our pups speechless, but I disagreed; Biggles will happily indulge in name calling with much larger dogs so long as they’re behind a stout fence, which was the case here. No, there was no doubt in my mind that the cause of the short-lived Beagle silence was a particularly gobby parrot. I can’t speak parrot, and I’m pretty sure Beanie & Biggles can’t either, but we didn’t need subtitles to tell us that he (or she) was screeching some very disparaging remarks about us. Our pups didn’t descend to the parrot’s level; instead they quietly continued on their way with their heads held high and their dignity intact, pausing only to snack on a bit of cow poo.

The main attraction on Kerrera was always going to be the beautiful ruins of Gylen Castle. Built in a readily defensible position by the rugged coastline, the remains of the castle are open to all visitors. Unfortunately Beanie & Biggles couldn’t be among those visitors. We struggled through the gauntlet of sheep to an excellent outdoor tea & coffee shop, but the short route from there to the castle was particularly sheep-infested, so Susan & the pups camped out while I went in solo to get a few shots.

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The approach to Gylen Castle

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Inside, the roof clearly needs work

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From a distance it appears that the castle has been built on a rocky cliff-like outcrop

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It’s only when you go through one of the passageways beneath it that you realize the truth: the castle’s foundations aren’t rock, but densely packed sheep & cow poo. I know this because I spent a couple of minutes wiping said poo off my shoes and the feet of my tripod once I made it to the grass on the other side.

It wasn’t just the poo castle that Beanie & Biggles missed out on however. On the way to the castle there was a composting toilet, and I paid it a visit. I’d never used a composting toilet before, and without going into the details I can tell you I will never use one again, at least not without a hazmat suit, but it would have been a huge hit with the Beagles.

The journey back to the ferry went more smoothly than expected even though we passed by plenty of sheep. Maybe Beanie & Biggles had become acclimated to the island’s scents; maybe the way we kept rewarding their self restraint with chunks of our sandwiches also helped. Regardless, we made it to the ferry without any further woofy outbursts, and on the way back to the mainland Beanie even nabbed a stray Rolo that a previous passenger had dropped. Would you give someone your last Rolo? Beanie wouldn’t.

The Kerrera debacle was at least partially compensated for by a pleasant return visit to the miniature loch at Coire Ardair. Just as on our previous visit, the area around the loch was overcast and chilly, while elsewhere was sunny and much warmer. Maybe those high cliff walls create their own micro-climate. One thing’s for sure, Beanie & Biggles definitely enjoyed romping through the heather!

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And finally, a parting shot from the Falls of Falloch. We’ve driven past the signs for this attraction countless times on our way up north, but this was the first time I’d actually stopped off for a visit. It’s not a good place for a walk – the falls are barely 2 minutes from the car park – but it’s certainly worth stopping there for a look!

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