In the last wee while I’ve started to spend a bit more time on Doggynet. The combination of constant toddler moods and baby needs have made me a bit tardy, but now I’m more determined than ever to give Doggynet the love that it needs.
I am slightly ashamed of how few blog posts I’ve managed to trot out in the last year. Pitiful isn’t even the word for it. When people ask me for the Doggynet URL I cross my fingers behind my back and think ‘please don’t look at it; or at least if you do, don’t read my blog!’
My renewed interest stems partly from better weather (I hesitate to say ‘good’ because this is Glasgow after all and you never get great weather for long) and partly from the knowledge that finally, at last, I’m ranked number one on Google for ‘dog walks Glasgow’. No longer will I have to insert weird bits of text just to get the words ‘Dog walks Glasgow’ into my site.
I’m hoping at this point that the crazy Google algorithm can’t detect a scathing tone. I’ve known it to de-list websites for far lesser crimes.
Seeing my site visitors gradually increase has been a bit of a boost, but it’s also been a call to action: ‘Right, people might actually be using this website. Better crack on!!’
As a result of this new energy spurt, I’ve found myself going to some slightly dubious places. I’ve been back on Google maps (I am not promoting Google, I promise) hoping to stumble across some green spaces that I’ve not yet had time to explore, or simply not seen, or else forgotten about.
The difference to the early days of Doggynet is that I already have what I regard to be the best of the best on this website, so the likelihood of stumbling across some cracking dog walking gem is relatively slim. However I am ever hopeful that there is a secret dog-friendly garden waiting for me beyond a rickety door in the middle of nowhere (but also close to a motorway/railway station/car park/very lovely café with superb coffee).
Now I’m not one to slam anyone who is in the business of promoting outdoor places, but I also feel like the Forestry Commission and I may fall out. Hats off to them: they have managed to market themselves pretty well, but I also feel that their website is somewhat misleading. Visit their website and you could be forgiven for thinking that places like Auchenshuggle are an undiscovered paradise. Needless to say, they’re not.
Initially I fell for the spiel, but after several trips to places that wouldn’t look out of place in The Walking Dead when I’ve been expecting Centre Parcs, I’ve started to feel a bit more nervous about my forays into the unknown.
A few weeks ago I attempted a trip to Old Mine Park at Bellshill. This was my first visit to somewhere that I’d found on the Forestry Commission’s website.
The roads leading me there were a bit dodgy, but I’ve driven through worse when getting to a park, so it didn’t exactly put me off. But when I parked up next to what looked like an old bit of wasteland, alarm bells started to ring. Nevertheless, I seemed to be in good company and could see that there were several branded dog walker vans in the spaces nearby.
There wasn’t much of an indication as to where to go, but as I’d arrived with both kids and the double buggy, I opted to avoid the steep slope towards a bridge that wouldn’t have been out of place in the film The Road (are you sensing a theme here?). So I took a right.
This, as you may have guessed, did not turn out to be a good move. My dubious navigating took us into a part of the park that seemed solely to comprise of desolate, bleached-out woodland that was ridden with rubbish and was, well, horribly depressing.
What was more depressing were all the signs indicating that a local primary school was using it for a nature project. I have seen more nature in a soft play.
It was a short walk. I heaved the kids back up the paths, driven by a disillusioned rage at the state of our outdoor spaces. In the words of my oldest daughter this was ‘not good mummy, not good.’
In all fairness, when I arrived back at my car, I was greeted by a chirpy dog walker (a professional one, not just a naïve mother) who looked at me curiously and said: ‘Going so soon?’
It turned out that I had taken the worst possible route and that apparently if you follow the ‘The Road’ path, the Old Mine Nature Park opens out into something quite lovely. We’ll see.
It’s partly because of his comment that I didn’t give up on the Forestry Commission completely. This is how I found myself at the entrance to Bishop Loch yesterday afternoon. I had decided it would be good to stop off somewhere on the way back from Stepps, where I was visiting a friend, rather than coming all the way back and then dragging the small people out again for a dog walk. I looked on the map and realised that I’d never visited Bishop Loch. I was actually a bit surprised at myself, because it looks to be part of a network of 7 lochs that includes Hogganfield Loch and Drumpellier Park – both of which are places of great beauty and are included on Doggynet. I think it was pretty logical of me to assume that Bishop Loch would be of the same ilk. I looked it up on the web and found it listed on the Forestry Commission website. The strapline assured me that I could ‘Relax at Bishop Loch’. Therefore my understanding was that Bishop’s Loch would be relaxing. A place of relaxation that is.
Cut to half past 4 and I’m sat in the car waiting for the camera crew to arrive and shoot another episode of The Walking Dead. I swear I can see Andrew Lincoln coming over the hill, but no, it turns out to be a middle-aged man hauling a dog that’s probably a pit bull. I don’t stick around to find out.
I’m not often scared by the daily dealings of my adult life, but Bishop Loch scares me. Not just a ‘heebie jeebies’ kind of scared but an actual, I have just texted my partner to let him know my location, in case I the kids and I go missing, kind of way. Even the dog refused to poo for the 30.5 seconds that I let her out of the car. I have never felt less relaxed in my life.
So no, Bishop Loch did not make me relax, any more than my journey around the industrial estates next to the A74 made me relax when I was in pursuit of the oasis that was meant to be Auchenshuggle. The postcode provided by the forestry commission was way, way out.
But despite all this, I live in hope. I’m taking the squirrels down to another of these 7 lochs next week. A website that does not belong to the Forestry Commission promises that there’s quite a civilised looking tea room. What can possibly go wrong..?