It can happen at any time of day or night, at any time of year. You may have gone out for a breath of fresh air, or to pick blackberries, or to take photographs. Whatever your reason for being out and about, you will, almost certainly, meet a dog walker. You may even be one of them.
There is a very good reason that most house buying advice includes the ability to check out the local area. It is not enough to turn up, decide whether you like the house and go. Obviously, you want to see where services are – shops, doctors, recycling centres and the rest. But you also want to get a feel for the area as a place to live, not just a place to function.
Even if you don’t have a dog, knowing if an area has good dog-walking country tells you a lot. But how can we measure it?
First, we can look at the percentage of public open space in an area. It is a handy measure, since parks are a favourite dog walker venue. We did the maths for local authorities in Hertfordshire – see column 2 in the table.
A lot of the variation is down to the different geographies of the areas. Watford, for example, is part of the contiguous built up area of London and has a couple of large parks, notably at Cassiobury. North Herts on the other hand, is a collection of much smaller towns – Royston, Baldock, Hitchen and Letchworth. Despite the Garden City, it has proportionately less public open space. So, public open space is a good measure, but it doesn’t fully capture nuances of exactly what space is available to the public.
Public Rights of Way (PRoWs) – footpaths and bridleways – can’t be measured as percentages, but they open up vast areas of countryside to dog walkers (as well as ramblers, photographers, nature lovers, riders and artists). In many areas, the PRoW network is extensive.
East Herts’ modest 3% of public open space, is complemented by over 1,000 kilometres of PRoWs – 17 metres per household. Similarly, North Herts’ 2.3% of public open space needs to be understood in the context of nearly 700km of PRoWs, 12.4 metres per household.
By contrast, Hertsmere – with over 11% public open space has a modest 4.5 metres per household, and Watford, with 14% public open space, less than a metre.
The thing with good dog-walking country is that people know it when they see it. But astute use of data can help agents identify the potential before buyers have even started looking, so they can then give a nudge in the right direction.
“Come and see all these parks and footpaths when house hunting,” they can say. “And bring your dog.”