Hewson on ... allowing dogs in public gardens

Hands up those of you who love plants and gardens.

I mean really love them, as in truly, madly deeply. As in I'd rather visit Nymans or Sissinghurst than date Cameron Diaz or George Clooney, although for me, Cameron (as in Diaz, not "call me Dave") would be a pretty hot gig.

Anyway, that's probably about 10 of you - maybe 12 on a sunny day when the Eucryphia x nymansensis 'Nymansay' is peaking. But I'm pretty sure most of you enjoy strolling round many of our splendid parks and gardens, if only to escape the football or Robert Peston.

I'm equally sure that many of you, like me, have a dog (welcome, Clyde). It is here that our problem begins, for it seems that dogs and gardens simply don't mix. I suppose all that barking and romping through the herbaceous border just won't do. So we must either leave them at home to chew the furniture (pointless and pricey) or sit them in the car pending our return (dangerous, especially in hot weather).

I'm minded to write this having been turned away from a well-known garden, albeit by a very nice lady in twinset and pearls. We thus decamped to the nearby pub, only to find it wasn't dog-friendly either ("but you can sit outside with the flies"). Oddly, children and the din that accompanies them are permitted, while Clyde is not, even though he'd happily reside on a leash under a table quietly sipping a half of best.

I can quite understand the concern over dog mess and mayhem in open spaces, but what's to be done for those missing out on gardens, of whom there are many? Some gardens (sensibly) do allow dogs in to smell the roses, and all credit to them. Providing they are on a leash, under control and "picked up" promptly (and to be fair, most of them are) I can't see the problem - and think of all that extra admission money from those presently deterred.

Anyway, one final plea to those who decide: please start using a symbol in your literature and on your websites to indicate whether or not your garden is dog-friendly, if only to spare us all a wasted trip.

Andrew Hewson is a freelance writer and columnist.

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