Irish at The Coves

Dog Walks Of London | The Secret Orchard

The misty morning dew still lay heavy on the grass as I dipped under the old rusty gate. Shhhhh… this part of The Coves is a bit of a dog walker paradise. It is a rare treat in a city the size of London to have a place such as this. Here there is no concern about traffic, or cars, or any of that.

It has Environmentally Sensitive Area (or ESA) designation – which means it is kind of semi-protected, or at the very least recognised as both vulnerable AND an essential part of encouraging a healthy watershed.

Here you may discover Great Blue Herons, warblers of all sorts. And there is a mated pair of Red-tailed Hawks every Summer. I often see them circling up above. Flora and fauna of all kind are now abundant.

I should point out, this is only the second time I’ve let Irish go off-leash in the city. And only here.

She in the past has been a bit headstrong, and deaf. Standing not so many yards away, and completely oblivious, yet can hear a dog treat bag being opened whilst outside asleep in the cool dirt.

I am starting to trust her, as she has earned it this last winter.

We have a history this old orchard and me.

As she goes bounding off into the undergrowth on little mini-adventures, she reminds me of another dog so many years ago.

Ol’doggy senses on overdrive, she leaps and bounds after a squirrel. Paused with paws up on the bark, she turns when I call.

Pops up her head. “YES”? And I smile and turn away. ‘Good girl‘, I say. This is new.

We are copacetic.

I can see the delight in her warm brown sparkly eyes.

Early morning, the air is cool, and the place is deserted. No fear of having our new balance rocked. So I do photographer stuff, and she does doggy stuff.

It’s changed a lot you know in these 17 years or more since that other canine and I of yesteryear ventured down that trail that lines these oxbow ponds. It’s wilder now, and most of the Apple trees are dead.

They weren’t back then. Back then the Apples bloomed each spring, creating a scene out of Camelot. With row upon row of frothy pink blooms lining these long grassy corridors. And in the fall, the wild grasses would be covered in rotting Apples, creating a lovely loom.

Today you have to go looking for the blooms, but they’re there still. And the orchard rows have almost disappeared, but some are trails that take you off to the heart of the Orchard.

It has changed. It is barely an orchard now, with meadows and foresty bits on the verge of being a woods.


There is something hopeful here. Inspiring. Wild beauty in the act of becoming.

With her head HIGH, Irish sniffs the breeze, blissfully blinking into the slanting sun that enchants the branches of the old twisted trees in the morning light.

She is beautiful. And she is wise.

I think sometimes that she has taught me more than I have taught her.

Just her and I.

Off on adventures.

IF YOU GO: park in the German Club parking lot, or otherwise arrive via one of the other surrounding Coves hikes.
A good map & history panel is located at Elmwood Ave @ Wharncliffe – Parking available. This entrance offers a more difficult walk in, though it is quite lovely. Steep gorges on either side the camelback path snakes down through the centre. It’s doable if you’re careful, using the tree roots as steps.
Following the trail through the fence, head off across the parking lot to the other side of the German Club.
Making your way along the road that runs beside the hall, you’ll notice the giant Cottonwoods that line the lane. Heading back behind the main Soccer field you’ll come to this old arched entryway with cool German writing, at the foot of a private residence. Turning left, and continue right through the trees.
For more information: Friends Of The Coves

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