Claire Gardner: Let’s call a halt to beach dog mess

Scotland's summer on Portobello beach, Edinburgh. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Scotland's summer on Portobello beach, Edinburgh. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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HOW glorious is this weather? I mean seriously, how often is it that you can float around Scotland in a real summer dress?

Normally at this time of year, the brave few might stick on a skimpy number – then, as the less-than-impressive temperature bites, haul on a huge jumper.

But, so far this year has been gloriously different from all the rest.

Dare I say it, but this is the third week of almost unbroken sunshine for most of Scotland.

Temperatures have ranged between a most satisfactory 20C to a “taps-aff” scorching 28C – and say forecasters, there’s more in store.

The grass is yellow and burnt, the BBQs are out and even the most peely-wally of skins are turning sort of reddish brown.

Many of us are having the huge satisfaction of laughing heartily at friends who have forked out for overseas fun-in-the-sun, because – let’s face it – when the sun is shining in Scotland there really is no better place to be. And part of the magic when the heat is up is the amazing range of glorious beaches close by.

Since the schools shut and office workers booked off annual leave, our beaches have been mobbed. Our usually windswept and interesting local strand is starting to resemble Benidorm.

On our last visit, the shore was awash with rugs and tents and sandcastles and folk swimming, yes, actually in the sea.

I even saw a couple with that “bat & ball” game generally only played by gorgeous tanned couples on a beach somewhere in southern France.

But alongside the sunbathers and swimmers and sandcastle builders I’ve also witnessed some teeth-gnashingly irresponsible dog owners letting their animals run riot.

On more than one occasion I’ve seen an idyllic scene ruined by a horrible hound leaping around out of control.

The other day, as a group of kids were standing back to admire their sand-building efforts, a dog raced up and cocked its leg against it.

Other times they’ve run across rugs, leaving a trail of sand and drool over the food, nicked sausages off BBQs and sometimes even left an unpleasant calling card. Even when responsible owners come and scoop-the-poop, there is something less than savoury about tucking into a sandwich next to the soiled sand.

Then there are the turf wars dogs get locked into, yapping and barking at any passing hounds – terrifying kids and adults with their ferocious displays.

And it is with this in mind that I have concluded a ban on dogs on certain beaches in the summer – or at least dog-free sections – would be no bad thing.

Before the militant dogs-owning brigade starts getting all hot under the collar, this is not a campaign against our faithful friends. I love dogs – I own a bouncy black-and-white collie who loves nothing more than a splash in the sea.

However, on the occasions he’s been to the beach this summer, we’ve had to keep him on the lead to stop him rampaging. And he’s ended up hot and fed-up, lying in a shady patch by the windbreaker.

Now I’m not saying we should erect a “No Dogs” sign on every beach in Scotland, rather that there should be areas where dogs are not allowed in summer, say between 10am and 5pm. That way those of us who fancy a picnic – or have kids who want to get busy with a bucket and spade in peace – can do just that. Meanwhile in the canine quarters, doggie owners can also enjoy a frolic in the sea with their pets.

Please note though, the debate is raging in Portobello. So fed-up have many resident become with dog-fouling and out-of-control animals, that proposals have been put forward to ban dogs from the sea front. In contrast Newbiggin by the Sea, in Northumbria, scaled back a 2008 blanket ban on dogs on the beach after 3,000 people responded to a public consultation.

What is clear is that there is no easy solution as extremists on both sides fight out who’s right.

Anyway, it’s probably a moot point, as once this glorious heat-wave fades we will pack away our buckets and spares for a another decade – leaving our beaches to go to the dogs.