Sykes Cottages: selection of Dog Friendly properties
Features

MIDHURST - A DOGGY DAY OUT IN PARKLAND

Midhurst, a small historic market town of less than 5000 inhabitants, is now the HQ of the South Downs National Park, an accolade which speaks for itself and which follows on from another made in 2004 by Country Life Magazine naming the town as the most desirable place to live in Southern England.

If you were to ask anyone what connection, if any, it had with the dog-world they might just come up with ‘the home of Canine Partners’, the charity based in Heyshott, a village just outside town. But, apart from that they’d probably draw a blank

Most people associate Midhurst with horses as it is the centre for polo in England at Cowdray Park; and it is true there is a burgeoning horse fraternity.

But it is now becoming a major dog walking destination or ‘doggy day out’. And it’s not too difficult to realise why if you’ve been to Midhurst, or live there and witnessed the changes in the past decade.

Thirty years ago Midhurst was a self supporting community with a flourishing retail, pub and restaurant sector. Very few people did their weekly shop elsewhere. Now, with Chichester and other big towns throwing up new developments all the time the competition for trade and for visitors has grown acute. Without any real conscious thought Midhurst has fought back by making the town a honey-trap for day-visitors and tourists especially young families with buggies and dogs.

Midhurst is a very friendly town – yes! there are grumps too – people still have the time and inclination to ‘stand and stare’ and chat to each other, especially if they share dog ownership and love of canine friends.

Everyday scores – maybe hundreds – of dogs get taken down The Causeway, a broad strip of golden Fittleworth sand which leads to Cowdray Castle and The River Rother. Now that The Cowdray Estate have built a Food Emporium and Café  - officially called by the misnomer Cowdray Farm Shop but nothing like one ; it’s far too posh – three quarters of a mile away over the polo fields in Easebourne adjoining the A272, dog walkers – and buggy pushchairs – head there for coffee, lunch, & tea. Also for a spot of Waitrose-like food shopping.  It hasn’t taken long for word to get around.  The site has a 100 space free car park, dog park and children’s play area. And, opposite, right across the estate road Cowdray are building a Model Farm.

But the real game-changer or killer app has been a voluntary get-together between the Cowdray Estate – it has 16,500 acres – The Academy and Woolbeding Natíonal Trust to form a permissive path over their properties along the south bank of the River Rother, joining up for the first time wonderful parklands on both sides of Midhurst

Woolbeding Gardens, judged to be world-class, is a gem in the crown of Britain’s gardens but doesn’t play host to dogs. It’s almost impossible to get in because you’ve got to pre-book and there is no onsite parking. But for dog walkers the whole of Woolbeding Parkland – open access land – is a real treat with rolling hills, woods, lake and riverine meadows. And, there is a small NT car park at the junction of the A272 and Woolbeding Lane.  The Cowdray Farm Shop and Woolbeding Gardens are like two bookends between which there  is a ’shelf’ of  parkland second to none in the world with options for circular walks back into town.

For those who don’t know this part of West Sussex the area is split up into several huge estates – Cowdray, Petworth, Goodwood, Pitshill, Stansted – which has preserved the landscape and prevented building.  You can stand on top of Older Hill near Woolbeding and view the horizon on three sides and not see a road, just lots and lots of rolling countryside. Yet, when the A3 tunnel at Hindhead opens in August 2011 it’ll take little more than an hour to get to Midhurst from West London

Taking dogs around Midhurst is not a problem. North Street, the main thoroughfare, has broad pavements with cafés with both inside and outside seating areas. Clean, well behaved dogs are welcome inside many cafés or in terrace gardens. Owners with wet dogs after a Rother swim should allow for sitting outside. Garton’s in the old town has a large cobbled area for its roomy outside café. Most pubs have outside seating. The Duke of Cumberland at Henley just outside Midhurst with a huge garden and ponds has views to the Surrey Hills and Blackdown, and plays host to families with dogs. There are several circular 3-4 mile walks to choose from at Henley. They join up with others over the Cowdray Estate.

With so many dog walkers and hikers in town – and horse riders – the retail sector is responding too. Stockley Trading has just taken over a redundant small Tesco’s in North Street and sells a mammoth-range of outdoor clothing and equestrian supplies.

Yes! Midhurst is a doggy town now!

Article by: John Trueman
Editor, Midhurst Pages.

Read more on:

The Midhurst River Walk 

Doggy Days Out in Cowdray Park

Midhurst Pages - Town & Community