IF you want some tips on where to take you four-legged friends on excursions across Gwent, JOHN PHILLIPS talks to dog walkers to find out their top spots.
BAGS of energy and a lead are all that are needed to venture out of your home and enjoy exercise with man’s best friend.
Pet owners can take their dog for a stroll down the street, in parks and even for jogs with runners in the grounds of Tredegar House in Newport.
But for some, allowing your pet to stretch its legs is a more serious matter.
Hence, husky owners in Newport get together by going on sleigh rides as part of a group known as the urban mushers.
Other dog owners are prepared to drive for miles to reach sanctuaries away from the hustle and bustle of towns and cities.
Newport (Gwent) & District Canine Society finds that forests in Gwent are some of the healthiest places to enjoy a walk with your pet.
Forests also give owners the opportunity to let their dogs roam freely without a lead.
Secretary Gill Stewart-May, 68, takes her nine-year-old Border Collie Harry to Gwyddon Forest in Abercarn.
She says: “Dogs can run free in the forest. It’s beautiful for walking.”
Cwmcarn Scenic Drive ranks among the society’s top dog walking spots.
The society points out there are many different paths to take which are of varying difficulty to suit all walkers. The area also has lovely lakes and a glamping site.
Newport mum Joanna Whittaker, 33, walks her 10-year-old Spaniel Alfie and six-year-old mongrel Cookie in the forest up to three times a week in the summer.
She says: “You don’t have to have them on a lead and they can all go into the coffee shop if it’s tipping down.
“It’s brilliant. It’s beautiful to walk with the kids and the dogs. There are so many routes and options. It’s just a lovely beauty spot.”
She also points out the forest offers a number of activities for her children Sam, two, and Ffion, three, like treasure trails.
Ffion tells the Argus she likes the bumpy bridge near the lake best while her grandmother Liz Dingle, 63, adds: “There’s lots of space. It’s never crowded here. You can be on your own.”
But Cwmcarn Forest is not the only location in Gwent where dogs can go for a swim.
Roger Hayward, 61, of Blackwood, goes either to the forest or Pen-y-Fan Country Park.
He says: “It gives you a chance to get out and go out. There is a cafe in the visitor centre in Cwmcarn.
“It is very popular with barbecues in the summer. Big dogs don’t want to be kept on a lead and it’s nice for them to see other dogs.”
Newport supermarket worker Heather Ryan, 53, likes to take her golden Labrador Ellie, six, for a swim at the lake on a regular basis.
She says: “I like the peace and quiet. You can tell the dog loves it here.
“A lot of people don’t know about it. It’s an ideal place to bring dogs.”
Pen-y-Fan Country Park at Mynydd Machen allows pet owners to take their dog over the mountain from Machen to Risca or take the road to Cross Keys or Pontymister, which has wonderful views, said Ms Stewart-May.
Shirhowy Valley Country Park is another top destination, according to the canine society, as it features “wonderful, interesting walks” including The Wishing Stone, Penllwyn Tramroad, a river walk, meadow trails and a woodlands trail.
Then there’s the dog walks for history buffs like the Ebbw Fach Trail, exploring Nantyglo Ironworks and many of the other Ironworks dating back to the industrial revolution.
The canine society stresses the area is rich in biodiversity and three of the sites, Beaufort Hill Woodlands, Parc Nant-y-Waun and Cwmtillery, have now been identified as local nature reserves.
But urban dog walkers are not left in the lurch and healthy walks can also be found in Newport.
The society recommends a "healthy start walk" which goes from Lliswerry Pond, Morgans and Woodstock Pools, Bettws Brook, Malpas Meander and the Rogerstone Welfare Grounds.
Dad-of-one Ashley Colcrouth, 25, and his partner Jade Rogers, 21, enjoy walking their two huskies Keyro and Winter in fields near Tredegar Park in Newport.
Their two puppies Nala and Simba are too young to go out but their parents are full of energy and their owners believe they should be taken out several hours every day.
Miss Rogers, of White Avenue, near Duffryn, says: “They need more exercise than other dogs. They bounce off the wall 24 / 7.
“If I had a bigger house it would be filled with dogs. There should be more designated areas where you can let go of a lead. You can walk them for 10 hours and they are still full of energy.”