Woody and I took a trip up country to the New Forest recently. We were invited to attend the inaugural Dogstival event, which took place at Pylewell Park in Lymington. Our favourite sprocker friend Twiglet joined us, the dogs had VIP passes to the event! We stayed in a cosy cottage just north of the New Forest that we found online via Dog Friendly Retreats and enjoyed a lovely weekend with our friends from Wales.
DOGSCLOSURE: I am paid to create blogposts and photography for Dog Friendly Retreats. Our passes to Dogstival were also gifted.
We stayed at Blue Charm Cottage in Damerham, which is 3.5 miles northeast of Fordingbridge. The New Forest National Park was a 10 minute drive away, making Blue Charm the perfect place to stay for the weekend. Dogstival was just over 25 miles away, at Pylewell Park in Lymington.
I was pleasantly surprised by Dogstival. Woody and I aren’t usually fans of big dog events, festivals or shows. I always think Woody would much rather run around a forest than be on lead in crowds all day. However, at Dogstival, there was plenty of space. Saturday was the busiest of the two days but it never felt cramped. The added bonus of a dog friendly beach near by was ideal. It was the perfect place to let off steam throughout the day – we all know how energetic spaniels can be!
We stayed at Dogstival far longer than expected, we were there pretty much the entire day. There was so much choice available to us! From catering stands selling everything from burgers to seafood, with vegan and gluten free options too. I tried churros for the first time, which I highly recommend. I don’t know how I hadn’t had them before! Dog businesses from across the UK attended, providing everything a dog owner could possibly need! We walked away with a new Ruff and Tumble Dog Coat for our future foster dogs, as well as an ‘Adopt Me’ lead, Goodchap’s fish treats and a gundog dummy (something I’ve always wanted to purchase for Woody!)
We spent the rest of the weekend exploring the New Forest. I used to regularly camp here as a child. The dogs enjoyed exploring Blackwater Arboretum, chasing each other through the ancient woodlands. I was a little anxious about letting Woody off lead at first. His recall tends to go out the window whenever he smells a rabbit, pheasant or deer. Fortunately he stayed close by and it was lovely watching him have fun.
We also picked up our third foster dog, Hen. He’s a golden working cocker spaniel who I’ve since fallen in love with and most likely fail foster (when you adopt the dog you’re fostering!) I like to take our foster dogs for a walk as soon as they arrive. Quite often they’ve been cooped up in a car for hours and it’s a great way for the dogs to meet one another on neutral ground. We settled for Wootton Bridge, near New Milton. I used to love coming here as a child and have fond memories paddling in Avon Water and swinging on the rope swing here. The dogs had an equally as fantastic time, getting as muddy as possible and swimming after their new toys.
There was just enough time to explore Acres Down, near Minstead, before heading back to Cornwall. Our friend Nyassa highly recommended this walk and it definitely lived up to expectation! It’s an hour long circular walk, with plenty of off piste trails to explore along the way. If you’re a fan of log stacks, Acres Down is the place to go. The stacks are a pivotal part of Forestry England’s woodland management plan for the area, providing timber and supporting employment in the local area. Unfortunately, Woody hasn’t learnt to read the ‘keep off the stacks’ signs yet and much preferred using them as a stage!
I really enjoyed our dog friendly weekend away and loved how family friendly both Dogstival and our New Forest walks were. Paths were wide and well maintained, often following quiet cycle routes that were away from busy roads. I’d highly recommend visiting Dogstival, particularly if you’ve got a shopping list in mind. Nothing beats getting to know small businesses in person. There were also loads of talks, workshops and displays held throughout the day, covering all sorts of canine topics. Dogstival is definitely worth visiting, even if you’re just looking into getting your first dog!
Paws crossed Dogstival will continue for years to come, we’d love to return again!
Have you visited the New Forest with your dog before? What’s your favourite walk?
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