The East is a region of dog lovers, but there are some areas which stand out from the rest and get a paws up from our furry friends. Fletcher and I have visited a fair few towns on our travels, he brings a whole new meaning to the definition of a ‘working spaniel’. Rather than joining the beating line and retrieving on cue, it’s Fletcher’s job to sniff out biscuit bars in dog-friendly pubs, taste test the water bowls dotted around towns and hunt out the best walks. It’s a tough job but someone has to do it, and who better than a spaniel with more energy than the Duracell bunny.
Fletcher has sniffed, sprinted and splashed his way around the region, while I’ve technically been dragged along and covered in mud, to bring you our verdict, in no particular order…
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
A few months ago Bury St Edmunds town council, tourism boards and Canine Crèche came together to launch an initiative to give dogs a warm welcome in the town. Shops, eateries, hotels and attractions display a paw print logo sticker in their window and put out a water bowl to show visitors they are part of ‘Dog-Friendly Bury St Edmunds’.
Fletcher, my husband and I recently spent a beautiful sunny Sunday walking around the town during the Christmas Fayre. We enjoyed a stroll through the Abbey Gardens (though dogs aren’t allowed off lead) and Fletcher managed to drain every water bowl dry. Though he was welcome to step inside many of the shops, his excitement and small spaces is a disaster waiting to happen so we chose to window shop instead. It’s great to see a town recognising doggy visitors – it’s a paws up from Fletch!
Saffron Walden, Essex
There are a surprising number of businesses throughout this historic Essex town that welcome four-legged friends. Of course most of the pubs are dog friendly, but unexpectedly, so are high street clothes chains, independent boutiques and interiors stores. I was delighted to hear that one of my favourite businesses, Angela Reed, a high end furnishing store, which has a cute café on its second floor is dog-friendly. I’ve not been brave enough to take Fletcher yet as the idea of taking him past gorgeous homewares is slightly terrifying.
There are plenty of local walks. Audley End Park is ideal for adventurous dogs who like to run free, explore hedgerows and splash in streams, while The Common, in the middle of Saffron Walden, is perfect for stretching those four legs. The large green space is surrounded by roads so only obedient dogs should be let off lead. There’s water bowls around the town for rehydrating after walkies. Head further out of the town, and country walks can be found in the nearby villages of Debden, Newport and Wimbish.
A firm favourite for a walk and a pub stop is Woodbridge. It’s heaven for dogs who love to be off lead and enjoy a splash in the water. Take a stroll along the footpath of the River Debden before heading into the town for a bite to eat at one of the many dog friendly pubs. There’s taps by the boat yard for washing down mucky paws and water bowls throughout the town. At The King’s Head furry guests are welcomed with treats and water, and can dine from the ‘Mutts Menu’. Tag your dog enjoying their visit on Instagram and they could star on the King’s Head Hounds wall of fame!