Happy New Year to all our Phileas friends and a big thank you and high paw for all your support in 2014. The book has sold brilliantly (naturally – I’m on the cover in a hot air balloon. Who wouldn’t want that adorning their shelves?) and the website’s been gathering a record number of hits. Keep those paws clicking on Phileas Dogg, Fido’s!
My New Year’s Resolution is to speed off on lots more Attlee adventures so, to start as I mean to go on, I’ll share one of my best breaks of 2014. In October Jane and I visited Helsbury Park in Cornwall….
The first thing I’d like to point out is that the name isn’t apt. Helsbury isn’t Hell for hounds – it’s Heaven. So perhaps changing the name is something you’d consider for 2015, David from Helsbury? Heavensbury Park – just a thought….
Helsbury is like a giant theme park for dogs with 100 acres of grounds – woodland and river and fields to romp through. There’s even one paddock that is totally enclosed so that owners of a nervous disposition with Houdini hounds (did somebody mention Epping Forest?) can let their dogs off-lead. There are thousands of rabbit holes to snout down and Attlee is in Wonderland.
What’s more, Helsbury’s four self-catering properties are designed to highlight the fact that the canine is KING. Gardens are enclosed, floors are slate and wood for muddy paws and there are throws throughout. NEWSFLASH: at Helsbury, DOGS ARE ALLOWED ON THE SOFAS!
Each property even has its own kennel, in case Sir Dog requires some downtime. Not me – I operate on Attlee UP-time 24/7.
Best of all, though, is the fact that every canine guest is furnished with a Frisbee. For me, this was the slice of ham in the Ploughman’s. As an esteemed travel terrier I understand that it’s the little touches that set places apart and I do appreciate a souvenir of my sojourns so I can brag and wag to my south-east London squad back home.
For the first couple of days at Helsbury Jane and I stayed firmly put. With 100 acres to cover and a delivery from Sainsbury’s to chomp our way through it would have been madness to venture further afield – everything we needed, plus more, was here. There were gates to cross and storms to survey from the safety of our cottage – not that a bit of rough weather would keep me indoors but Jane is rather more trepidatious – and a wood burning stove to warm myself beside.
Also there was the small matter of the swimming baths in the grounds.
Dogs aren’t allowed but I don’t do water unless it’s in a bowl anyway so that was no hardship and I was happy to wave Jane off on her morning pilgrimage to the pool.
Then Jane’s friend Pennie arrived with her car. For some reason a great fuss was made of this vehicle everywhere we went – almost as much fuss as is generally made of me. Obviously this was a cause of great consternation-bones. We drove to the beach at Trebarwith Strand (dog-friendly all year round, Phileas Phact Phans) – a crescent of sand bordered by rocks which offered great opportunities for pinching other dogs’ tennis balls and hiding. Jane snapped a rather fine portrait of me, windswept and waggish with the fierce waves crashing in the background…..
Next, she and Pennie took a photograph of the car! What on Dog’s earth possessed them? They spent far longer styling and discussing it than they had the image of me as well. Which angle suits it best? Should the door be open or shut?
I was rather put out by it all. Is that car a celebrity? No. Am I a celebrity? Yes.
Still, I decided as we had a sup in the The Port William public house overlooking the beach, I couldn’t worry about it. There’s nowt so queer as folk and a dog could spend his whole lifetime trying to puzzle these humans out. Best to just accept their oddities, forgive them and carry on striving for the squirrel at the end of the rainbow.
Anyway, the natural order of the world was set right – and Figaro vanquished by Fido – that very evening when we visited The Masons Arms in Camelford for dinner. What a fine hostelry. Jane was entranced by the ceiling decorations – all manner of ephemera was strung from the low wooden beams.
And I was entranced by the welcome I received. The town vet happened to be dining there that eve and although this displeased me at first – no dog wants to meet a veterinarian, be the situation social or medical – I was assuaged when, with one glance, he pronounced me a fine figure of a fellow and one of the top terriers he’d ever seen. In fact, I basked in compliments all night and, when we departed, the landlady insisted I take a gift to remember The Masons by – a towel bearing the word tribute. It now adorns my basket at home and I’m rather proud of it, just as she was proud to have Phileas Dogg frequent her hostelry.
The following day we set sail in the Figaro again but this time I settled on the seat with equanimity and appreciated that it was doing what it’s designed to do – transport dogs and their human sidekicks hither and thither instead of pose for photographs and show off.
It took us to Port Isaac, a pretty Cornish fishing village clinging on to rather a vertiginous cliff where a famous television programme called Doc Martin is filmed. Jane has never watched the show, I gather, but lots of people have and are drawn to Port Isaac because of it.
However, while Jane’s not a Doc Martin viewer, she is familiar with its main star – a dog called Dodger, who plays a character named Buddy. She’s met him at Crufts. I’m rather surprised she entertained this Dodger as, quite plainly, he has stolen our cat’s name. And while I am not always one to do Dodger the Cat a favour, I do believe name theft quite an affront and had I bumped into Dodger the Dog on the steep Port Isaac streets would have told him so in no uncertain barks.
Phileas Phacts: Helsbury Park, Cornwall
- Helsbury Park, Camelford, Cornwall, PL32 9RH Tel: 01566 781753; helsburypark.co.uk
- Prices start at £795 per week (but there is a discount available if there are only two people in your group) plus a £20 charge per dog per stay. Discuss how many dogs you’re holidaying with at the time of booking but, as long as they’re well behaved, a large pack can be accommodated.
- Port William Inn, Trebarwith Strand, near Tintagel, Cornwall, PL34 OHB Tel: 01840 770230; www.theportwilliam.co.uk
- The Masons Arms, Camelford, Cornwall, PL32 9PB Tel: 01840 213309; www.masonsarmscamelford.co.uk