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Visiting the south-west Hampshire countryside with your dog

An image of a small black and tan dog on a lead next to its owner who is wearing a pair of navy blue wellies with small dogs printed on them
Visiting the south-west Hampshire countryside with your dog | © National Trust Images/James Dobson

Dogs are welcome at the Mottisfont estate woodlands, Curbridge Nature Reserve, Stockbridge Down and Stockbridge Marsh. We ask that you keep dogs on a short lead at all times while you visit, to help protect livestock and wildlife. If you're a professional dog walker, you're welcome to make use of these sites if you're licensed with us.

Our pawprint rating system

We’ve been working on making it easier for you to find out how dog-friendly your visit will be before you and your four-legged friend arrive. To help with this, we've created a new pawprint rating system and given all the places in our care a rating. You can find this information in the National Trust members’ handbook.

The Mottisfont estate woodlands, Curbridge Nature Reserve, Stockbridge Down and Stockbridge Marsh are one pawprint rated places.

Dogs are welcome here, but facilities are limited. They’ll be able to stretch their legs in the car park and walk in the nearby open spaces, depending on the season. Read on to discover exactly where you can take your dog.

Where can my dog go?

Dogs are welcome in the Mottisfont estate woodlands, Stockbridge Down, Stockbridge Marsh and Curbridge Nature Reserve, but please keep in mind these hints and tips when you're visiting with your dog:

  • Livestock roam freely at Stockbridge Down and Stockbridge Marsh. When they are present, please keep dogs on a short lead, give them a wide berth, and if they approach let your dog off the lead.
  • To minimise disturbance to local wildlife and livestock, please always keep your dogs within sight and under close control at all our countryside sites.

You'll find a dog bin at the entrance of Stockbridge Down.

The Canine Code

We’ve worked with our partner Forthglade to come up with this Canine Code, which helps to make sure everyone can enjoy their day:

  • Keep them close: using a short lead helps to keep your dog from disturbing ground-nesting birds and farm animals. It's essential to use a short lead around sheep. But if cattle approach you, it's best to let your dog off the lead, and call them back when it's safe to do so.
  • Pick up the poo: please always clear up after your dog. If you can't find a bin nearby, take the poo bags home with you.
  • Watch the signs: keep an eye on local signs and notices wherever you're walking. They'll tell you if a beach has a dog ban, for instance, or if a path has been diverted, or if you're in an area where dogs can run off-lead.
  • Stay on the ball: remember that not everyone loves dogs, and some people fear them. So make sure your dog doesn't run up to other people, especially children.

Keeping control of your dog

Our definition of close or effective control is: ​

  • Being able to recall your dogs in any situation at the first call
  • Being able to clearly see your dog at all times (not just knowing they have gone into the undergrowth or over the crest of the hill). In practice, this means keeping them on a footpath if the surrounding vegetation is too dense for your dog to be visible
  • Not allowing them to approach other visitors without their consent
  • Having a lead with you to use if you encounter livestock or wildlife, or if you are asked to use one

Professional dog walking at Mottisfont, Stockbridge Down, Stockbridge Marsh and Curbridge Nature Reserve

Obtaining a licence for professional dog walking across the Mottisfont and south-west Hampshire estate will allow you to undertake your work in one of the area's more picturesque settings – whatever the season.

We want people to use and enjoy the countryside but we need to balance this with caring for these special places and covering the cost of maintenance and conservation.

The Mottisfont estate, Stockbridge Down, Stockbridge Marsh and Curbridge Nature Reserve have become very popular places to walk dogs. In recent years we have witnessed significant issues around dog control and dog fouling, and a big rise in professional dog walking.

Professional dog walking is a business. A licence is required for each of the National Trust-managed countryside sites of south-west Hampshire, allowing professional dog walkers to legally walk up to four dogs at any one time.

We can issue licences for the following sites:

  • Mottisfont estate woodlands (Spearywell, Great Copse, and Cadbury woods)
  • Stockbridge Down and Marsh
  • Curbridge Nature Reserve

Licences come with a map plan of the sites.

How to obtain a dog walking licence

You can get a licence for professional dog walking on National Trust sites across Mottisfont and south-west Hampshire by contacting Visitor Experience Officer Jenny Danes:

We'll need to see evidence of your public liability insurance cover. Please be aware that most public liability insurance policies will be invalidated if you are walking dogs on land where you do not have the express consent of the landowner.

The licensing scheme will help ensure that:

  • We are able to effectively manage commercial dog walking for the benefit of all visitors
  • All professional dog walkers are operating safely, considerately and complying with National Trust bylaws
  • Harm to deer, livestock and other wild animals is reduced
  • Professional dog walkers using National Trust land have valid public liability insurance (to the value of £10,000,000)
  • A financial contribution is made to the National Trust for business use of land as with any other commercial activity such as filming, photography and catering concessions.
Six small white dogs, led by two people, Blenheim Palace Oxfordshire
Professional dog walkers are welcome with a licence | © National Trust Images/Arnhel de Serra

How much does it cost?

The annual licence costs £150 per site and is valid from 1 February - 31 January. Licences bought partway through a year will be charged pro-rata (£12.50 per month) based on the number of months remaining to the end of the licensing year in January. Licences will need to be renewed each year.

Dog walking licence Frequently Asked Questions

Why are you doing this now?

We want people to use and enjoy the countryside, but the increase in recreational activity each year creates pressures on both the landscapes that we care for and our resources.

Anyone using National Trust owned land for commercial purposes of any kind needs our consent. This includes, for example, people taking photos for commercial use or running club activities.

We believe that professional dog walkers, who make use of these sites as part of their commercial enterprise, will acknowledge the fairness of making a contribution to the upkeep of the area and the restrictions imposed by the licence will help protect the habitat and its wildlife.

The rules of the licence will also help reduce wildlife disturbance and attacks on livestock.

Why have you set the limit at four dogs per walker?

We’ve looked at other schemes operating across southern England, as well as our own experience out on the estate. We feel that four is the maximum number that can safely be walked and kept under full control at any one time. However, we are prepared to keep this under review if it proves to be unnecessary.

If I walk fewer than four dogs at a time, will it cost less?

We want to the scheme to be simple and consistent, so the fee has been set for walkers walking up to four dogs at a time.

Why do the licences all run for a fixed year from 1 February?

We are a small team and so it is administratively much easier to run renewals for all licensed dog walkers once a year.

Why have you set the fee at £150 per year?

We've looked at other licensing schemes and at the charges dog walkers advertise on their websites. We felt this was a fair sum that reflects the value to walkers of being able to use our sites for their business. It works out at less than £3 a week.

Can you have a discount if you’re a National Trust member?

The National Trust is a charity that relies on its members for support and on the Gift Aid contributions from membership fees. In order to comply with HMRC rules, we are unable to offer monetary discounts to members on commercial activities.

What do we get in exchange for signing up?

Licensed dog walkers will be able to advertise the fact that they are properly licensed to walk on these National Trust listed sites on their advertising materials.

Dog owners will be able to check with us that they have the licence to walk these sites and that the dogs are safely and fully insured. Dog walkers are advised to check their insurance, as walking dogs on land where they don’t have the consent of the landowner may invalidate their insurance.

How will you enforce against dog walkers who aren’t licensed?

We’re a small team and we want to work with visitors and users. We will make approaches to unlicensed dog walkers and urge them to become licensed. We’ll stress the benefits of being correctly licensed. We’ll also advise them to check the terms of their insurance to make sure that they are not contravening the terms of either by failing to obtain the correct licence to use these sites for this purpose.

We will also promote awareness among dog owners who use companies, to ensure they check the company has the correct licence for the site and therefore that their dog is safely and fully insured. Community volunteers patrol National Trust sites and can report back on unlicensed dog companies they see parked in the car parks or walking on site.

Our partners


We've partnered with natural pet food maker Forthglade so that you and your dog can get even more out of the special places we care for.

Visit website 

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