A Bit of Animal Magic!
Appropriately for a region that's so popular with walkers, some of our country and coastal cottages can accommodate your dog as well as yourself. We don't discriminate, but we'd love to see more of our very own Sussex Spaniels visit, as this lovely breed – stockier and stronger than other spaniels – is on the Kennel Club's 'at risk' list. It's always described as having a sort of rolling gait, which makes me think of sailors and seems rather appropriate to our coastal county.
Although they're working dogs they have a kind, confident nature that makes them good pets too. The English Setter and the Irish Terrier are also on the list as more people turn to exotic breeds of the sort favoured by slebs, sorry, that's the breed formerly known as celebrities. Paris Hilton and her Chihuahua have a lot to answer for.
It's always sad when a native breed begins to die out. It's not just dogs – ponies, cattle and sheep are affected too, and I'm sure there are other examples. We don't have our own Sussex ponies but our local Southdown sheep are having a bit of a revival, mainly because they grow fast and taste good but let's face it, the Downs just wouldn't be the same without flocks of these no-nonsense, leg-at-each-corner creatures. No country walk is complete without the sight and sound of local sheep.
Another Sussex breed that's still popular is our very own chicken. They seem to come in all sorts of colours, from brown or red to speckled, lavender or even golden (these apparently popular in Australia). They're good foragers and very productive on the egg front and they get on well with people, so they're popular as garden pets.
The Sussex Weald is full of deer, of course – anyone who's walked in the woods will have come across the signs, if not seen them. But if you're after something a little more exotic – barring the odd escaped wallaby – another inhabitant that's on the increase is the wild boar, a nocturnal fella so you're less likely to come across him, although you may well see the signs – look for rubbing posts and wallowing holes as well as tracks, especially in woodland on the Kent/Sussex border. They're a bit controversial as they can damage crops, but it's sad to hear they're popular with poachers.
So keep walking, keep looking... you never know what you might meet.