It’s November (or it was November at time of putting paw to quill and ink but Jane is rather tardy at posting on-line) and that means it’s the month for Phileas Dogg’s annual autumnal trip to the Lake District – a tradition as set in (grey slate) stone as pancakes on Shrove Tuesday and squirrel chasing every morning and afternoon of every day of every year forevah!
Forget Barksworth and visiting in the spring for the DAFFS – for me, the Lake District is all about the LAFFS. And I knew I’d have a few on this jaunt as I was visiting two old acquaintances of mine – Mr Jeeves Esq. and Mr Google Esq. late of London town but recently relocated to Coniston where, with some assistance from Sandy and Stewart, they are the new proprietors of the Wheelgate B&B and self- catering establishment. Within a few weeks of arriving at said hostelry, assessing the lay of the land, Jeeves and Google requested a visit from me in my esteemed role as the number one newshound on matters of dog-friendly accommodation. I was only too happy to oblige!
Anyway, just as my (pedigree) chums had their new digs to display to me, I had an item of import to show them – the Mookie, which is a just invented THING combining a massager and a brush for pets. The people at Mookie sent me one to trial in return for a small remuneration – well, Jane and I need to put bread on the table (Jane doesn’t eat bread so I use that merely as a figure of speech) and biscuits in the bowl. The concept behind the Mookie is that it’s good for dogs that don’t like being brushed as it’s small and non-threatening but I have no concerns in that regard: what kind of pathetic pooch would be scared of an inanimate object like a brush for Dog’s sake? I’m a bit of a Bow Brummel and the Mookie is a handy size for me to pack in my Gladstone bag as I travel the land. I also rather enjoyed the sensation of the massage lid behind my ears – it was very relaxing. (Although I can’t relax for too long, obviously: not when there are so many squirrels in the world to chase!)
Bizarrely, though – and a bit rum, in my opinion – Tommy THE CAT at Wheelgate seemed most taken by the Mookie, demanding it be rubbed along his spine at regular intervals. Paws off Tommy: the Mookie’s mine! (Well, he is a very singular sort of feline – he goes for walks in the countryside with the dogs and on family holidays. I do hope Dodger doesn’t hear of this type of feline activity. I don’t need him hanging around with me and cramping my style – what would my muttley massive reckon to that?)
Has Tommy the CAT not noticed that Coniston and environs is protected by a giant dog in the hills? I was very heartened to spot him when Jeeves and Google lead the way on a walk down to Coniston Water – two and a bit miles from Wheelgate and through some fine sheep country. I barked at the sheep – of course I did; any self-respecting dog would – and for this Jane admonished me and it was lead-on for the whole expedition. Then Sandy (clearly a superior sort of dog companion and a woman who knows her onions when it comes to canine-kind) suggested that distraction was required to prevent me barking – distraction in the form of mini marrowbones! Thank you Sandy – that worked a TREAT!
Jeeves and Google both had a dip in the lake but I stayed on terrier firma – not because I’m in any way scared of water, you understand, but one of us dogs had to keep the sheep under close observation. Imagine they noticed we’d taken our eye off the tennis ball and decided to barge Sandy and Jane. They might manifest as innocent fluffy clouds but I’ve heard the phrase a wolf in sheep’s clothing and was on hound alert. Who knows what evil plots they weave in their woolly brains?
Ablutions undertaken, Jeeves and Google marched on to their favourite spot in Coniston, the Meadowdore Cafe – dog-friendly coffee shop klaxon! Afterwards I discovered my favourite spot – a shop called Just for Ewe where the dog toys were displayed at dog level. What an amaze-balls idea – I could stick my snout into the collection of squeaky orange plastic beer bottles, select one and present it to Jane for purchase. So thrilled was I with the dog-friendly lay-out of Just for Ewe that I carried my quarry all the way home, squeaking at sheep along the way. Squeaking at them is nearly as much fun as barking – they aren’t expecting a dog to squeak so it confuse-balls their little woolly minds.
We walked back to Wheelgate along the old railway line through the woods and, upon return, I was rather muddy. Obviously I relish this – mud is a badge of honour for a dog – but I’ve realised over my years as a travelling terrier that many proprietors are less than thrilled to have a mucky pup among their clientele. Sandy, however, simply threw me a towel and told Jane to put the throws down when we returned to our cottage. That’s what I call service: I imagine Jeeves and Google have implemented this arrangement and I applaud them for it. That’s a 5/5 scores on the paws!
Now, as a note of order, I shall explain the way that Wheelgate operates: dogs aren’t allowed in the B&B itself but are more than welcome in the six adjacent self-catering properties. Jane and I resided in the Little Byre, which is a one-bedroom grey slate cottage and very cosy too – much cosier than back in the day when it was a cow shed. Of course now that the Little Byre has all mod-cons the cows have moved out. Cows don’t require central heating and a shower and a television and DVD player whereas dogs most definitely do. That is because dogs are far superior to cows and if any bovine has a beef with me saying that please take it up with Jane.
Anyway it was time for a quick brush with MY Mookie as we were frequenting the local hostelry for the evening and Jane thinks it imperative that I keep up appearances when out and about in pubs and restaurants spreading the dog-friendly bark. The Church House Inn is a half mile walk through Jeeves and Google’s private five-acre field (available to holidaying hounds) and then along a footpath through the woods from Wheelgate but it could be a million miles away as I heard such a tall tail from one of the locals it was out of this world. Appazently, according to this farmer, one of his sheep has won prizes in every fair in the land for its fine figure and phizog and is now worth thousands and thousands and even more thousands of pounds. Had Jane given me any scraps from her repast of steak and kidney pie and chips I’d have spat them out in astonishment. A sheep worth all that money – come off it local farmer, you’re pulling my leg!
Phileas Phacts: Coniston
- Wheelgate B&B (and adjoining dog-friendly cottages), Wheelgate, Little Arrow, Coniston, Cumbria, LA21 8AU Tel: 015394 41418; www.wheelgate.co.uk
- The Little Byre, where Jane and Attlee stayed, costs £39 per person per night B&B (and includes use of the Wheelgate bar) and can also be booked as self-catering accommodation by the week with prices starting at £290 – call 015394 41418 or log on to www.conistoncottages.co.uk for more details. Dogs cost an extra £20 per week self-catering.
- Pick-ups from the nearest station can be arranged and a regular bus service runs past Wheelgate for guests using public transport.
- Meadowdore Cafe, Hawkshead Old Road, Coniston, Cumbria, LA21 8ET Tel: 015394 41638; www.meadowdore.com
- Just for Ewe, Fairfield House, Tilberthwaite Avenue, Coniston, Cumbria, LA21 8ED Tel: 015394 41206
- The Church House Inn, Main Road, Torver, Coniston, Cumbria, LA21 8AZ Tel: 01539 449159; www.thechurchhouseinn.com
The Mookie costs £10 and is available to buy from www.mookiepet.com: it comes in a choice of six colours and is made in Britain from soft rubber. Attlee’s cousin Sanday is rather a fan.