The Friends of Haddon Wood

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Not such much the elephant in the room…

…but, all the same, something you might not want to read about – dog poo has become an issue.

It’s not news to anyone who uses it that Haddon Wood is a great thing: a green space – even in its current, futuristic, plastic-tubed state. It’s a lovely place to spend time in, with no silage crops, no livestock, no fear of being chased around by crazy horses (don’t bite me – I love horses, but some that inhabited the Chapel field displayed distinctly psychotic tendencies, in my opinion). We can go wherever we like in there, whenever we like; take a different route every day, without danger of either boredom or passing traffic – thanks to Mark for cutting increasing numbers of inviting, curvy paths.

As a regular myself, I’m really pleased to see quite how many people are using it, with dogs and without. Fantastic. Marvellous. That’s what community woodlands are for and I think it’s going to be even busier as we head for summer.

…which brings me to the dog poo issue again. You’d be amazed at the amount of time the Friends of committee spends discussing it. The thing is, the more people use the wood, the more signs we leave behind us – it’s inevitable. In fact we’ve been lucky that, so far, very little litter has encroached and that only in the area immediately round the gates on West Lane, where a few people stop to have their lunch and toss the packaging out of their cars, rather than take it home. No, the worst problem by far is the stuff left behind by dogs.

I think most people are aware that not picking up your dog’s leavings in a public place is unacceptable nowadays, but there are always a few who seem to think that because they’re in a field in the countryside it isn’t a problem – it’s natural after all, isn’t it and biodegradable and how am I supposed to know whether my dog has done it or not? Chances are it’s done it in the long grass, away from the paths, so that can’t be a problem, can it? Anyway, one good fall of rain and it’s gone, surely?

Actually, no. A lot of people walk the wood now. Kids use it. In the summer, people might want to sit and picnic on the grass and that’s on top of the number of those of us who are constantly monitoring the trees, straightening stakes, adjusting tree ties etc in the long grass. If you’ve never trod, slipped, or sat in dog poo, you’re lucky. Trust me, it’s vile.

The ignorance argument doesn’t hold up: pretty much all dog owners are well aware of their animal’s constitution – how many times it does it daily and when. …and if they’re not, they should be. Knowing your dog’s mechanics is part of being a responsible owner, the same as training it to come when it’s called, sit, stay, walk on a lead without wrenching your arm out of its socket and all the other things.

Dog poo bags (biodegradable, if you prefer) are readily available, in various quantities, all over the Net and let’s face it, any plastic bag without holes in it, will do. Lots of people swear by nappy bags. The point is, it’s not hard to get into the habit of keeping a supply in your pocket. Pick up the lead, pick up a poo bag. Simple.

The sad fact – and the point of this post – is that, despite the committee’s reservations about putting up bossy notices of any kind on the gates to the wood, this evening we’ve – reluctantly – given in to the inevitable and pinned signs to the gates, requesting that dog owners do the right thing.

You can see more about the rights and wrongs of this by following this link to the Dogs Trust page on Dog Fouling ..

Oh, and please don’t think this is aimed at the majority. It isn’t. I’m also not so naive as to think that everyone who uses the wood reads this blog. So, if you’re one of the many good guys that already cleans up after your hound, perhaps you could carry a few extra bags with you and educate the ignorant minority?

OK, rant over. Comments please…?