A very popular location for walking dogs. Dogs love it here (no doubt partly because of the squirrels!). Could do with more dog waste bins and like many forest locations, can be muddy in winter.
Harlestone Firs is one of the more popular locations for Northampton residents to walk their dog. To be honest it’s somewhere I’ve only visited a few times previously, usually when I feel like the dogs will benefit from a change to their routine.
Harlestone Firs – The Positives
So where exactly is Harlestone Firs? From the centre of Northampton it’s just a 10 minute drive in a north westerly direction. Most dog owners would tend to park in the layby outside Harlestone Firs garden centre which is free parking. During the week you should be able to find a place no problem, it might not be as easy at weekends however. If you are driving with the aid of a sat nav then a good Harlestone Firs postcode to use would be NN5 6UJ. The image below shows this layby with the garden centre in the background.
The main entrance is opposite this layby. The image at the top of this article is the view from the entrance. From here you will find a selection of paths to suit any length of walk from 30 minutes to over 2 hours. Apparently dogs need to be on the lead for certain areas. However in my limited experience dogs always seem to be off lead without any issues. Indeed during the week the dogs you come across here are generally very well behaved. Most of the initial paths are through the woods but you can pick a route that will take in some open fields too for the variety that most dogs seem to love. Due to the forest canopy you find at Harlestone Firs it’s also a good option on very hot days to help protect your dog(s).
Another positive perhaps would be that the Harlestone Firs garden centre contains a pet shop called Pets Corner. Should you have left home without poo bags, a dog lead or your ball launcher you can at least remedy that easily enough. They are open 7 days a week too! The garden centre is actually a great place to spend some time. Besides the pet shop they also have a cafe, Cotton Traders and a Regatta concession selling outdoor clothing.
Harlestone Firs – The Negatives
Whilst I have to give a balanced view of Harlestone Firs Forest I don’t want readers to focus too much on these negatives. For many dog walkers these negatives would not be relevant to your circumstances. That being said the following points are worth noting for some people. Firstly this location can be popular at weekends. Not only with other dog walkers but also mountain bikers, cyclists and possibly even horse riders (you will see some paths marked as ‘Bridleways’). This could be a negative not only because the layby parking might be full but also if your dog is nervous of horses and bikes. Our own Border Collie Archie is very unsure around large mammals like horses and cows and is likely to growl from a distance. The presence of bikes and horses would definitely cause me to avoid Harlestone Firs at weekends.
Another downside is a lack of facilities. You won’t find a cafe or restaurant within the woods should you be hoping to buy a drink or visit the toilet. The issue of facilities also applies to dog waste bins as there is only one, at the main entrance. Not a deal breaker but another couple of bins evenly placed would certainly be very welcome. On the subject of facilities it should be noted that there is a restaurant at the garden centre close to the layby parking. However I’m pretty sure it would not be dog friendly.
Also like many forest locations, Harlestone Firs can get a little muddy in the winter months.
Finally for those who are looking to socialise their dogs perhaps Harlestone Firs is not your best option. You will almost certainly meet other dog walkers here but in my experience this location seems to appeal to dogs who focus more on their owners and less on playing with other dogs. That’s not to say that dogs you meet here are unfriendly, rather that places like Bradlaugh Fields are probably better for doggy socialisation.
I hope this review of Harlestone Firs has been helpful to those new to Northampton. For those who are regulars to the area please do comment below to give your opinion from a dog walker’s perspective.