Countryside Code – The Thames Path Dog Walks

PET CHECK BLOG Swans and cygnets swimming at Walton-on-Thames summer evening

\\\ Dog Walks

1. The Thames Path

2. What Is The New Countryside Code For River Walks?

The UK has an ever increasing population living in urban and city dwellings with millions never having visited parts of the UK including our beautiful countryside locations. That is, until post lockdown, where many of us flocked to green open spaces, falling in love with the countryside, when needing a day out, weekend break or staycation.

Likewise, the pandemic bought about new changes and that included a massive increase in new millennial dog ownership, an estimated 2.5 million new dogs bought, bringing the UK dog population to an estimated 12.5 million who not only need daily dog walks but are visiting countryside locations with owners ever more frequently in bigger numbers.

\\\ National Trails


1. The Thames Path


The Thames Path is part of the large 16 National Trail Organisation a walking challenge, where dogs can accompany owners.

The Thames Path, allows dogs to experience walking right alongside the river banks, tow paths, by boat moorings, reservoirs, from the start of the Thames in the Cotswolds to London, ending at the Thames Barrier at Woolwich.

The walk is 184 miles (294 Km) long. There are several organised groups (such as Walk The Thames) offering guided and non-guided walks over days, providing staycation breaks, or you can just pick up part of the walk enjoying a weekend walking break or a lovely day out with your dog.

Beautiful Summer’s Evening

Walton-on-Thames

Part of The National Trail Thames Path

Enjoy a fabulous walk at Walton-on Thames, the last part of the non-tidal river, where it becomes tidal at Teddington Lock, being part of the National Trail Thames Path.

This part of The Thames Path, Stage 12, The National Trail walk starts at Shepperton, is a 10.9 mile walk to Hampton Court and where walkers will –

“visit vast reservoirs, an old racecourse, a royal palace and smart Kingston”.

From Shepperton Lock there’s a choice of routes depending on whether the ferry is operating.  If it is, you can cross the river and follow the towpath on the south bank; if not then there is a primarily road route that takes you north to cross on Walton Bridge, the latest bridge to be built across the river”.

“Passing enormous reservoirs providing water for the capital, you eventually reach the green space of Hurst Park where horses raced from 1890 to 1962.  Across the river stands Garrick’s Temple built by the actor David Garrick to house a statue of Shakespeare in 1756”.

Hampton Court Palace and its Home Park, built by Cardinal Wolsey and added to by Henry VIII and William and Mary, dominate the river and enhance the Path as far as Kingston Bridge.  Kingston-upon-Thames has its own association with kings, and continues today as a Royal Borough having been a favoured crowning place for Anglo-Saxon kings”.

Information kindly supplied by The National Trail

The Thames Path Map courtesy of GetOutside

The walk is very manageable during a day out with your dog, as long as your dog is used to longer walks and not just ‘a round the block to the park’ sort of dog, where you’ll need to prepare your dog in advance, over a few weekends by experiencing longer distance walks.

There are dog-friendly pubs, cafes and restaurants along the riverbank where you can find refreshments, perhaps sitting outside in sunshine, relaxing, enjoy a meal, ready to walk the next part of this stage.

Cyclists are welcome on this Path between Shepperton and Hampton Court which is exceedingly pretty, so dog walkers must be aware to readily share the space. If your dog continuously barks at cyclists, then this may be a too busy a route at certain popular times of the day.

Kingston-upon-Thames

The Thames Path

Picture is taken looking down stream towards London from Kingston Bridge where the river shortly becomes tidal at Teddington Lock.

The National Trail Organisation have developed their Paths into manageable shorter distance walks and provide this information on their website. The walks can vary, for example, the final stretch in London, the north bank walk from Tower Bridge to the Thames Barrier is just 5.5 miles whilst Lechlade to Newbridge is 16.4 miles.

If you’re planning to cover a distance, then the walks can be planned according to your and your dog’s walking ability and over how many days you want to walk, making an enjoyable break, or you may like the flexibility to do one walk every so often.

The Thames Path is fairly manageable for many abilities, being flattish most of the way. There are options to take water crossings, boat rides and ferry crossings, all adding to the enjoyment of the Trail. There are many historic buildings to see and picturesque outside sites to take in, that you may not wish to rush.

Well-behaved dogs are generally allowed on boats and ferry’s for free. Sea Rules generally ask for them to be restrained on a short lead and sometimes, muzzled. You may need to check the transport providers website before travel.

Things to take with you dog walking – You will need for a day’s dog walk – In addition to collar, ID tag and lead, (short and long), the usual dog coat, if weather requires this, or sunblock, plentiful full water bottle and collapsible bowl for your dog, a dry meal is helpful for a stop over break if walking a longer route, optional treats, and muzzle.

When you return to your vehicle, it’s handy to have old towels to clean off mud, more clean fresh water and some dry food before a journey home.

The Thames Path walks with distances are as follows –

  • The Source to Cricklade – 12.3 miles (19.7 Km)
  • Cricklade to Lechlade – 11 miles (17.5 Km)
  • Lechlade to Newbridge – 16.4 miles (26.2 Km)
  • Newbridge to Oxford – 14 miles (22.4 Km)
  • Oxford to Abingdon-on-Thames – 9.9 miles (15.8 Km)
  • Abingdon-on-Thames to Wallingford – 13.5 miles (21.6 Km)
  • Wallingford to Tilehurst – 14.8 miles (23.7 Km)
  • Tilehurst to Henley-on-Thames – 12.3 miles (19.7 Km)
  • Henley-on-Thames to Marlow – 8.7 miles (13.9 Km)
  • Marlow to Windsor – 14.3 miles (22.3 Km)
  • Windsor to Shepperton – 13.7 miles (21.9 Km)
  • Shepperton to Teddington – 10.9 miles (17.4 Km)
  • Teddington to Putney (The south bank route is 11.6 miles (18.6 Km), the north bank route is 14.1 miles (22.6 Km)
  • Putney to Tower Bridge (The south bank route is 10.5 miles (16.8 Km), the north bank route is 10.3 miles (16.5 Km)
  • Tower Bridge to Thames Barrier (The south bank route is 10 miles (16 Km). The north bank route to Island Gardens is 5.5 miles (8.8 Km)

With all the 16 UK National Trail Paths they provide lists of much shorter ‘Circular Walks’ being exactly that, where you can start and finish at your preferred location.

The 24 Thames Path Circular Walks include –

Several organisations cover The Thames Path as it runs through so many different counties, regions and London, such as Transport for London. There are numerous books that you can buy to cover the different walks when you are planning your visit.

The Path is cared for by many volunteers as well local council funded organisations, without their support these Paths would not be maintained to the high standards that walkers experience.

When walking The Thames Path, you’ll notice the abundance of wildlife that live close the river side, it’s their home and naturally wander onto the river banks. It is important to keep your dog on a short lead, away from the water’s edge, to not interfere with these wild animals.

Swans and geese will hiss quite violently at the sight of a dog and are agitated by their presence, anytime of the year, and even more so with young offspring to protect. Dogs will attack swans, geese, ducks and other wildfowl with devastating consequences. Read about a horrific attack on a swan by a dog, The Mirror Newspaper. If you stumble upon wild fowl needing help, the RSPCA have much information online including a call line for those wild animals that may have been injured or attacked.

Wildlife at the side of river banks

Need protecting from your dog

If you are planning a visit to a UK waterway, canal, river or stream, check out the Countryside Code before leaving home

\\\ Countryside Code Dog Walking

The Countryside Code 2021

The 2021 Countryside Code has had a makeover after 70 years

2. What Is The New Countryside Code For Dog Walkers?

Long and overdue, the Countryside Code has been updated, the guide that the UK public should know and abide by, when stepping out into the countryside.

The UK Countryside Code was introduced 1951 to provide everyone with a helpful guide to enjoy the benefits of visiting the countryside whilst respecting the nature. It doesn’t just apply to farmland as the name possibly suggests but country parks, coastal areas, scientific areas, areas of outstanding beauty, moorlands, mountainous regions, all areas open to the public including rivers and canal walkways.

Not all UK schools manage to teach our children the Countryside Code, so it’s important for all new visitors to take the time to catch up before a visit.

There are 4 main parts of the Code to read

The sub sections include –

  • Farming, livestock and wild animals
  • Travel and parking in the countryside
  • Be nice, say hello, share the space
  • Follow local signs and keep to marked paths
  • Take your litter home – leave no trace of your visit
  • Take care with BBQs and do not light fires
  • Always keep dogs under control and in sight
  • Dog poo – bag it and bin it – any public waste bin will do
  • Check your route and local conditions
  • Check weather, tide and water conditions
  • Plan your adventure – know what to expect and what you can do
  • Rights and permissions

KEEP DOGS UNDER CONTROL

It’s essential dogs are always kept in sight and good at responding to your commands in new environments. Problems generally occur when a dog acts of character and suddenly bolts or new dog owners fail to know and follow the Code when in new surroundings.

The Guide details –

  • always keep your dog on a lead or in sight
  • be confident your dog will return on command
  • make sure your dog does not stray from the path or area where you have right of access

It’s essential dogs are always kept in sight and good at responding to your commands in new environments. Problems generally occur when a dog acts of character and suddenly bolts or new dog owners fail to know and follow the Code when in new surroundings.

Keeping your dog under effective control to make sure it stays away from wildlife, livestock, horses and other people unless invited. It is good practice wherever you are to keep your dog on a lead around livestock.

Always check local signs as there are situations when you must keep your dog on a lead for all or part of the year. Local areas may also ban dogs completely, except for assistance dogs. Signs will tell you about these local restrictions.

On Open Access land and at the coast, you must put your dog on a lead around livestock. Between 1 March and 31 July, you must have your dog on a lead on Open Access land, even if there is no livestock on the land. These are legal requirements.

A farmer can shoot a dog that is attacking or chasing livestock. They may not be liable to compensate the dog’s owner.

Let your dog off the lead if you feel threatened by livestock or horses. Do not risk getting hurt protecting your dog. Releasing your dog will make it easier for you both to reach safety.

\\\ The Countryside Code For River Walking

What does the Code require of dog walkers when walking by rivers?

  1. Use the designated signage for walkers provided by the National Trail, river, or canal authority.

2. Stay on marked paths, even when they get muddy.

3. Use any gates, stiles or gaps as provided, shutting gates after use.

4. Do not cause damage or disturbance to nature. Leave rocks, stone, plants and trees as you find them and take care not to disturb wildlife including birds that nest on the ground. This is very important around the river bank walks.

5. Dispose of litter in the appropriate bins or take home with you, leaving no trace of your visit. Litter can be so easily picked up by swans, geese, ducks and other wild animals who can choke on foreign objects and causes death.

6. Some walks may ban dogs at certain times of the year or require you to keep them on leads at all times.

7. Keeping dogs out of rivers is advisable to prevent accidents occurring, particularly where some rivers may have notorious fast tidal ranges.

8. Take care where river side banks can be slippery and rocky.

9. Some riverside walks will allow fishing. Dogs do love to investigate so it’s best to avoid these areas with your dog, pop them on the lead, and walk briskly by.

10. River walks are generally designated with public footpaths, so you shouldn’t see cyclists. Some walks are marked as public bridleways, and may allow off-road cycling and horses. These walks would be well-signed and advice provided for dog walkers.

TIP – Avoid letting your dog drink river water which may contain poisonous algae and toxins – even when thirsty walking.

DOG POOP

It’s your responsibility to always clean up even at river and canal side walks

The new Country side Code includes a section about the huge growing health and environmental problems of safe dog poop disposal. With such an increase in the dog population since Lockdown, 2020, a pet population of an estimated 12.5 million dogs now living in the UK, then that’s a huge disposal problem, especially for councils who have the responsibility.

Special poop bins are provided on most popular tow paths and river side walks. If there is no dedicated bin, then using the general rubbish bins council provide is the alternative.

Exceptions are made to those only who have mobility and disabilities, and for working dogs such as Police, Medical, Guide dogs when on duty. Failure to do so and being caught can impose hefty fines.

The Countryside Code is published for England and Wales. Scotland and Northern Ireland have separate publications.

The recent pandemic has bought about new changes to the ways we do things. Post lockdown restrictions may require households not to travel in certain areas of the UK. It’s advisable to check with your local council and social media websites before making special journeys.


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