Harringtons Walkies on the Wild Side

I'm not sure I have ever told the story about the day we collected Mabel and Moose from their lovely white fluffy mummy Abby Lloyd in Wales. About 18 months earlier we had fallen in love with the prettiest West Highland Terrier I have ever seen (cover your ears Mabel). It sounds ridiculous but she was. This perfectly square face, cheek hair as white as the snow, and a tummy that was like stroking cotton wool. 

We had talked about looking at getting a dog or dogs, a matching pair, as Rich was looking to change his job to work from home. I did about as much research as I did when we were planning our wedding! What breed would be right for us, for us in 10 years when we hopefully had a family,  which breeds have health problems, the pros and cons of bigger dogs vs smaller breeds, breeders to avoid like the plague and those you could trust with your life, not just the puppy you were buying from them. You name it I researched it. 

And that's when we found Abby and all the other woofers faded into the background. We travelled to Wales one rainy Saturday morning after exchanging emails and a couple of phone calls and met the kindest couple and their four beautiful dogs and instantly felt a connection. Jan had an impressive list of awards for her prize winning Westies but it was her overwhelming warmth and love for her puppies that bowled us over. Fast forward 18 months to 13th August and we headed to London from Weston-super-Mare for a day trip to celebrate our anniversary with a tour of Buckingham Palace. It rained, just like it did on our actual wedding day, and we left London in the afternoon having oohed and aahed at the golden coach and State Banquet tables, not to head straight home but to head to bring our furry babies home!

We'd been on the end of the phone when they were born, "We have your girl!" "Mabel is here" and then "Ooh another girl, and another, oh wait the last one is a boy!" We'd been to see them a few times before they were big and strong enough to come home, and were completely in love with these tiny snowballs that fitted in your hand. I hadn't grown up with a dog but now I cannot imagine not having one or two as part of our family.

We miss their scuttling paws across the tiled floor when they are on a mini break at my in laws who love them as much as we do and help us when we need a dog sitter and they just co-exist with the boys without fuss. They are part of the furniture, simply just part of our dynamic. 

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They have travelled with us since they were a couple of months old, they come to friends' for sleep overs, they feel like Southbourne is their second home. They know every inch of my Granny's flat, they know that beyond the cliff is the zig zag path down to the beach hut, where they patrol "their" 30ft of the promenade. I am convinced they feel the same the same as we do about this stretch of coastline, they remember which steps lead to the hut, they have their own spots where they rest after tearing around in figures of eight on the sand. Mabel likes to sit on the little ledge and Moose sunbathes on the towels, watching the other dogs go by, deciding which one he wants to pop down to the beach and say hello to.  

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They are hilarious, sensitive, loyal and two of the stars of the new Harringtons campaign with Ben Fogle to get us all inspired around the country to try new routes with our woofers. There was only one place we wanted to share as our favourite route and that's a wonderful hidden headland called Hengistbury Head a few miles along the Dorset coastline from our beloved Southbourne. If you didn't know it was there you would miss a treat.

There's a handy car park opposite a large area of open grassland where you'll find kite flyers of all ages at the bottom of Warren Hill. We park up as quickly as possible as the dogs go wild in the back, knowing exactly where they are, and head off down our favourite track. 

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It has everything, moorland, heathland, the beach, a nature reserve, woodland and the Mudeford spit - famous for it's multi coloured beach huts and one of the best crabbing spots! There's gentle slopes or more adventurous terrain if you want to take in the spectacular views from the top of the nature reserve, but we are just as happy winding through the trees, veering off the tarmac path down to skim stones across the bay, ending at the sand dunes and the upturned rowing boats.

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It’s a place where you see everyone from newborns in slings wrapped up in blankets and padded coats with ears poking from the top of their hoods, to groups of friends with picnic blankets or a portable BBQ. From grandparents trying to keep up with their broods who have raced on ahead to the Quay armed with their crabbing buckets and fishing lines to kite flyers and bird watchers. I’ve always felt it’s a place where anything and anyone goes.

You start in the open grassland, with the tall whispy blades that shelter the golfers from the roadside dancing in the breeze, and end up meandering through the purple heather, past the grazing cows, rustle through the woodland with the carpet of oak tree leaves, past the bay with the bobbing birds and end up on a the sandy shores that look out onto the white Polar bear cliff face and the Needles. It’s everything Great Britain has to offer in one 45 minute stroll or 25 minute race if you are blasting through on your scooters!

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The track between the Hiker cafe and the land train platform is a well trodden path at all hours of the day. Early morning runners and cyclists watch the sun rise over the rowing boats and sailing dinghies, that are waiting for the warmer weather and all the beach hut owners to come back and decamp for the summer.

Then as the day goes on, you see parents and buggies, school groups heading for the wildlife reserve and dog walkers smiling to each other. It’s a place you can't help but be happy at, even on a cold and windy February Sunday! We have been here in rain and shine, summer and winter and seen the heather change from dark green to vivid pink come early autumn.

And now we are not tied to tea time routines it's so nice to stay out a little longer, see the sun set over the lagoons and finish up with dinner out at the Beach House. Sometimes we are all so motivated to get out before or just after lunch, walk off that big roast dinner, but dusk is just as lovely a time to explore. 

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It was bustling. That post lunchtime rush of people and every breed of dog you can imagine. There were moments of ebb and flow, when we stopped for the Westies to say hello to a new furry friend, when we veered off the main track to head to the pebbly shore of the bay, overlooking the pretty town of Christchurch.

We sauntered along the path that hugs the bay and as you take in the birds in flight landing on the still water, you can't help but want to slow your pace down, breath in the sea air and just take in the view.

You don't have to stay on the main path, you can dive off down to the beach and walk along the shore line. The visitor centre that you pass within minutes of leaving the cafe has all sorts of information about the area, the wildlife, the conservation efforts and the archaeology of the area but if you want to take your own route, just keep walking forwards and eventually you will come to the Beach House cafe and ferry jetty to Christchurch.  

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I love watching the landscape change through the seasons, when are down for New Year with friends, when we are bottling back from Mudeford on the land train over the May bank holiday weekend and in the summer months when the cousins all run along the sandy path barefooted and sun kissed. I have photos of the boys growing up on these walks. Jumping through the heathland, getting braver as they get bigger.

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We saw 5 fun things that you can look out for too on your visit:

  1. There are some beautiful wood carvings at Hengistbury Head. Our boys loved the carvings of the land train that they could climb on to see over the reeds and across the bay to the ferry jetty in the distance.

  2. Next up is “the best tree to climb in the world!” according to our boys. It’s branches are ideal for younger children and older ones. One minute it’s a pirate ship the next it is a tree house. We had trouble tearing our boys away!

  3. Amongst the ivy bound trees is a hidden treasure. Who doesn’t love a tree swing?! We all had a turn and there’s enough room in the clearing to really swing your legs and go high up in the sky!

  4. The lagoon is teaming with birds and you need to look out for migrating Dunlins and Ospreys that pass through the headland. Kestrels and Skylarks are just a couple the 300 species of birds that are known to inhabit Hengistbury Head.

  5. The rocky groynes that protect the beach from further erosion are an adventure in themselves. The boys made imaginary dens and caves and love to pretend there are all sorts of fish in the cracks beneath them waited to be found. 

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Whether you return to your car with windswept hair and rosy cheeks in the winter or with sticky hands from an ice cream that has dripped down the cone on a hot summer’s afternoon, I defy anyone not to leave without a sense of achievement. That either you’ve got all the kids out and in the fresh air, that you’ve taken your dogs for a lovely long walk or spotted a new breed of bird.

There will be something that you will remember that makes you happy. It’s a place you want to revisit and that’s the magic.

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If you get a chance to follow our route we have three tips for your visit!

Check out the other fab routes with Harringtons around the country to explore on your dogventure! 

*This is a sponsored collaboration with Harringtons and it was an absolute pleasure to be part of it. The dogs have even switched to their hypoallergenic food and won't touch their old favourite any more! 

Change and Rest

I love the phrase a change is as good as a rest. It works for everything. Ask yourself a question - what you want to achieve tomorrow. Then think about the result if you changed something or rested. 

Forget a magic eight ball, this simple phrase is all you need. 

I'm not really talking about life changing changes. I'm not typing a frantic letter of resignation or putting the house up for sale to chase a missed opportunity of travelling the world in a gap year I never took. I'm talking about little, tiny, insignificant changes that add up to a shift. Like a 5ft snow drift that forces gigantic trucks off the road with a force of nature that's unstoppable. 

And resting doesn't necessarily mean shutting up shop. In this crazy online world you can be offline in one place and emerging in another. Keep a hand in, jump in with both feet to one platform and be present, even if something else is quiet. I've watched bloggers I've "grown up with" over the last 6 years channel their focus and determination into totally different things. Some have burst onto the YouTube scene, some are becoming household names, famous for writing passionately and Facebook live-ing about what they believe in. Authors of not only their blogs but books on the shelves in Waterstones at Waterloo. Some have left their original more traditional jobs and are paving the way for a generation of creatives earning a full time income from home, around their families, with their families.

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These are family businesses in the truest form. My grandfather was and is a chimney sweep. He learnt from his father, carrying bags of coal when he was still in his school uniform. He didn't just learn a skill, a trade, he learnt about work ethics, managing time, managing money and managing customers. All the things I want the boys to see, to respect and appreciate. And even though our boys might not have featured in a blog post for quite a long while they are still very much a part of it. They hold things, they have a turn at being models for an hour or a day. They play and get a pocket money fee for their time. You might not see our work as a family on this blog as often as a couple of years ago but it's out there. 

I think about those coal bags and have kept thinking about how you can't keep up that sort of physical job without resting. Literally letting your body recover from a hard day's labour, down time to recharge and be ready for the day ahead tomorrow. And blogging is in essence no different, heavy bags of coal aside of course. I've stayed up through the night to get something finished. Wailed at 3am when a document didn't save or a hard drive crashed taking everything with it to the unrecoverable heaven of data in the sky. I've crawled back to bed at 8.03am when Rich is on the school run and thanked my lucky stars that I work from home. Because without that extra hour in bed on those days I wouldn't be able to function!

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I know all the hours my friends spend online and offline, prepping for a shoot, planing out storyboards for a video tutorial, answering emails and Twitter messages at gone midnight. It's endless. 

But you can't work all the time and be at your best.

And I guess that's been my dilemma. I like being at my best. Even if the result doesn't match my expectations I want to believe I have tried my hardest. I have a constantly updating list of things I want to do when I retire, which makes my sister howl. Things I want to learn. I have a sewing machine that's never been touched since the Christmas of 2015 and if it stays untouched until I'm 65 then so be it. I'll give it my best then. 

You can't do it all. I've tried - it makes you a slightly worse mother, wife and friend and so on. Not so bad that people give up on you but that they might stop relying on you. I don't want to be the person that will be there in a crisis but I might be 5 minutes late. And that's what happens when you spread yourself like watery icing on a Victoria sponge. Everything gets a coating but not enough for the sprinkles on the top.

My trouble is I know I am not willing to give up on anything. I love all my hats even if I know I can't wear them all at the same time. But there is a place for all of them, it's just about making sure I am not running on fumes. 

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Some things have to be done, like feeding the children, feeding the dogs, getting them to school on time (ish). Posting backdrop orders, ordering a new print run, development meetings with Persimmon Homes. Lots of hat switching going on and I love it. Bouncing from one thing to another - I just need to be at my best.

So I've had a rest from writing here, kept on top of the essentials and a little bit extra but now I am ready to write like I've been desperate too. For me, for brands I am lucky to work with and hopefully for you. If you got to this part! 

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I realised most of the time I take photos without thinking too much about it. Sometimes I set up a scene or slightly rearrange the sideboard or coffee table. But generally I snap away. I don't know why I have had such a block at sitting down and writing. Because anyone who knows me knows I have a lot to say and most of the time I don't shut up! I come from a long line of oversharers and I mean that in the nicest possible way. We don't really do off limits. We know each other's deepest secrets, darkest fears and are there for each other, most of the time over a FaceTime 4 times a day, but I have been overly guarded online.

Quiet and that's not me. 

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So I am going to write about what I want to shout about and take photos of things that make me feel alive. Not just happy, not just because they fit in a grid or will guarantee a certain number of double taps. I say take photos of what makes your heart happy. Because it shines through and just watch as all those strangers become friends, become invested in you, your home life, your work, and then watch all those double taps become real hearts. Connections. 

I've fallen into every trap over the last 6 months. Not confronting things that feel wrong to me, not letting you know about all the highs that far outweigh the lows. I've just been too quiet, when really we've had so many adventures!

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Well no more. 

So how's your year been so far?! 

Lucy Heath Comments
Post For A Post Day • Featuring ipostparcels

I love reading interviews with bloggers, people who started their blogs at a similar time to mine and people who have been blogging for well over a decade and more. And the funny thing is the same answer comes up over and over again, when they are asked what’s the best thing about blogging. The friendships.

It almost doesn't make sense that you could form intensely close relationships with people you might never get to actually meet but it’s true. People who you talk to, often on a daily basis, who could be at the opposite end of the country, live on other continents, from completely different backgrounds and in completely different stages of life. But people who you feel really know you and you know them.

I’ve learnt from my school and uni days that when life is busy, when you are juggling jobs, family, kids or pets (I’ve spent most of the weekend stroking a very sad Mr Moose who is accessorising with a most irritating plastic cone following an operation at the vets) friendships become like elastic bands. They have to, you get stretched, commitments force you to drift apart sometimes but the roots of a true friendship, the type that lasts a lifetime, will always spring you back together. Best friends for me are the ones who can be there in a crisis, even when there might be months that felt like seconds that have passed between texts or calls. The ones you want to spoil for no reason at all, other than to let you know you are thinking of them and hopefully make a difference to their day that day.

My friend Zoe is that person. 

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I haven’t seen her beautiful face for well over a year and I’m not sure when the next time will be either. There’s exactly 408 miles between us but it feels like 400,008 to me. Like we need the stars of the entire universe to align one day for us to be in the same place. She is someone who I would and have rung in a crisis. A crisis of confidence, a family disaster and I hope she feels the same. We’ve FaceTimed and shared our real life vs our “Insta life”, she wouldn't care if I was in my pyjamas at 2.30pm and I am constantly in awe of her ability to juggle four children on a daily, no make that hourly, basis!

Zoe and I met through blogging, we sat next to each other at a fancy pants awards dinner and we were both a mix of giggly, nervous excitement, totally intimidated by the situation and the Queens of blogging who were sashaying around the ball room around us. From the moment we said hello we didn't stop talking. She is utterly charming with eyes like chocolate buttons and her fiery Scottish wit made me a little bit fall in love with her that night! I know that even if years pass and we don't get to see each other, we will always be friends. 

She’s a dreamer like me, romantic and sentimental and we both adore post. Proper, brown paper packages tied up with string type post. We both love being part of the blogging community, adore Instagram and all the 65,000 pictures that are posted each minute, but we both appreciate the thought that goes into wrapping something, a little act of kindness that isn’t a status update or a scheduled stream of tweets. Recent research has shown that half the UK (48%) say they’ve never sent a surprise parcel to someone they know - but, 84% of us say we’d be more excited to receive a surprise parcel in the post, than a text or DM on social media.

A real thing on Post For a Post Day. A day created by ipostparcels to encourage us all to take a day of rest from the whirlwind online world and think about someone and show them you were thinking of them by surprising them with a letter or parcel. 

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I knew straight away when I was talking to ipostparcels about being part of Post For A Post Day this September what I was going to send to Zoe. My sister and I had been chatting about how when you are having a hard week, wouldn't it be nice to send yourself a daily treat to open! But I wanted to send Zoe, (who is a dab hand at little ones’ birthday and party games) no ordinary parcel but a pass the parcel. Just for her!

I found all sorts in my desk drawer that I’ve collected from goody bags and bought her a few little treats; a note book with the words “Enjoy the Little Things” which has been the ethos of her blog for as long as I have known her, some seeds to grow in a pot at home, a few scrap book cards that might be nice for her Instagram shots and a book for her mini break away with her husband that she’s been dreaming of.

I hope she loves it because I love her to bits!

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On ‘Post For A Post Day’ on Monday 18th September – step back from the hamster wheel of hashtags and send a surprise parcel FOR FREE. ipostparcels are giving away up to 100 free posts per day all week starting today. Collected from your door and delivered to one of your favourites. A day to take a break from mass sharing - it could be as simple as sending a letter to your mum who lives down the road.

Who is your favourite? Why not surprise them. What will you send? Share a picture of what you posted and the story behind why you posted it with the hashtag #PostForAPost.

To post a small parcel (up to 2kg) for free on Post For A Post Day, just go here:

…and enter this code: PFAP in the voucher box.

The first 100 people to redeem the code each day between Monday 18th September and Friday 22nd September will be able to post for free, so get there quick!

* Post created in collaboration with www.ipostparcels.com