We’ve been pet sitting our way around the U.K. for five years, travelling from county to county to look after pets all across England, Wales and Scotland. Now we’ve been travelling for so long, we’re getting to spend more time in each county and expanding our local knowledge of each one. The last place we rented a house before beginning our pet sitting journey was Brighton, though save for a few day trips out of the city when we weren’t too exhausted from working, we didn’t make it out into the countryside much. Nowadays, as our days are our own to spend how we please, we love nothing more than getting out into the wild with four-legged friends by our sides whenever we pet sit in Sussex! Here’s five of our favourite walks we’ve completed at five different dog sits:

Ditchling Beacon

One of the rare day trips we took during our life in Brighton was squeezing in a visit to Ditchling Beacon – the highest point in East Sussex. Back then, we walked to the bus stop by our house and took the very long, slow and winding bus journey to the top of the Beacon. We felt so refreshed in that countryside air! Luckily for us, a recent visit didn’t take quite so much effort, as we completed a house sit right at the foot of the Beacon, and we spent many days walking the paths here. With Fred the Golden Retriever and Betty the Collie-cross by our sides, the steep path from our back door to the top of the Beacon took around twenty minutes. If you’re travelling by car, there is a National Trust car park just a few minutes walk from the Beacon itself, with stunning walks along the South Downs in either direction. On a sunny day with Fred and Betty, we walked along to the Jack and Jill windmills – the latter of which is a 19th century traditional corn windmill which has been fully restored, and is often open to visitors. On another day during the sit, we headed East to admire an unusual V-shaped plantation of trees, which were planted to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887. During our second stay with the pooches later in the year, we enjoyed watching them both run around in the December snowfall! Dogs are welcome off-lead here, though you have to be aware of which fields contain sheep and ground-nesting birds. Whichever path you choose, whatever the season, you’ll be rewarded for your efforts in making it to the top with a gorgeous walk for you and your four-legged friend. Click here for the Jack and Jill windmills route on OS Maps. Click here for the Queen Victoria plantation route on OS Maps.

Devil’s Dyke

Another one for avid hikers, Devil’s Dyke is a picturesque point on the South Downs Way and at almost a mile long, it is the longest, deepest and widest ‘dry valley’ in the UK. Easily accessible from the National Trust car park just five minutes up the road, we chose to visit here with Sprocker Bear while house sitting nearby during two weeks in August. We enjoyed a 4.8km (3 miles) hike with Bear, following the National Trust ‘Histories and Mysteries’ walk to view such points of interest as the donkey wheel, and the Devil’s Graves. The sloping hillside made for perfect thoroughfare for energetic Bear to let off some steam, while we admired the breathtaking countryside through the Dyke and beyond. There is another 11.2km (7 miles) route to Devil’s Dyke all the way from Ditchling Beacon – a trail we chose to hike back in our Brighton living days, which is well-sign posted for those who prefer longer walkies. Click here for the Histories and Mysteries route on OS Maps. Click here for the Ditchling Beacon to Devil’s Dyke route on OS Maps.

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100 Acre Wood

As we both grew up with the stories of Winnie the Pooh, the ‘100 Acre Wood’ was a must-visit for us during a house sit in the Ashdown Forest. While caring for Labrador sisters Hattie, Ruby and Gracie, we were lucky enough to have a direct path to the woods right across the road from the house. While the woodland described as the 100 Acre Wood is only in fact around 6,500 acres, these beautiful woodlands were the inspiration for A.A. Milne’s stories of Winnie the Pooh, and the forest is full of surprises for those who look! Taking the sloping forest path, winding through the trees, we spotted Piglet’s house (a small doorway at the base of a tree trunk, with lots of gifts left by visitors), and Owl’s house (another sweet handmade door high in the treetops). But for anyone looking to experience the true joy and nostalgia the Pooh stories provide will be as excited as we were to find the ‘Winnie the Pooh’ bridge, where we played countless games of ‘Pooh sticks’ in the rushing water below the bridge, while our pooches explored the woodlands around us. Visiting the Milne and Shepard memorial is also a must if you’re visiting the area – the view from the memorial, nestled in a copse of trees, is spectacular. You can read about our visit to all the Winnie the Pooh points of interest here!

This walk is a moderate one, though the forest can become quite muddy in bad weather as little sunlight penetrates the canopy to dry the paths to the Bridge. Depending on which direction you arrive from, you may have to cross roads with your pooches – make sure you’re aware of your dog’s whereabouts at all times! After all that exploring it’s around a thirty minute walk from Pooh Bridge to Pooh Corner cafe, where you can indulge in sweet and savoury treats in the tea garden with your dogs. Click here to see the route on OS Maps.

Petworth deer park

We’ve been fortunate enough to complete multiple house sits close to Petworth, meaning we’ve visited Petworth Park many times! With over 700 acres of parkland to explore, the walk is always different. While dogs are permitted off-lead in the park land, it is home to around 750 deer, so it’s advised to keep dogs under close control – fawns often sit alone in the long grass without their parents, so it’s not unusual to come across them by surprise! We first visited Petworth Park with Border Collie Tangle during our first Winter as pet sitters – she was so sweet and friendly towards other dogs but luckily for us she couldn’t care less about the deer! There are pathways criss-crossing all over the park, so it’s easy to admire the deer from a safe distance no matter which direction you choose to walk in. The Park is owned and maintained by the National Trust, but is so open that it feels wild! Make sure to walk right up to the House with your pooches, as the view from there is gorgeous – especially on a golden Winter afternoon. There are so many different routes you could take here that we never follow a map – find out more on the National Trust website.

Barcombe Mills

While pet sitting sibling Cockapoos Hattie and Baxter in nearby Wivelsfield, we came across Barcombe Mills as an easy-to-follow dog walk that has a little bit of everything! On our 8km (4.9 miles) loop walk, we found large open fields for the dogs to run around in, we followed the river Ouse to Barcombe Reservoir, and even passed a pub where you can rent canoes called the Anchor Inn. On a sunny day in August, there were many people enjoying canoeing down the river or tucking into a picnic along the riverbanks. We loved strolling through the grass, watching Hattie and Baxter explore all the scents along the way! The free car park at Barcombe Mills was a bonus, making our circular walk easier to plan, and you can choose to donate to the local parish if you wish. This walk is very flat and mainly on pathways, with some grass pathways carved out by the many walkers who have come before, making it easy for humans and doggos of all abilities. Click here to see the route on OS Maps.

Always remember…

  • If you’re not sure of the rules for dog-walking wherever you go, check local signage and if in doubt, err on the side of caution and keep dogs on-lead
  • Bag and bin your dogs’ poop or take it with you – don’t leave it on the side of the path!
  • Keep your doggos in sight, under close control at all times, to avoid disturbing others or causing harm

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