You know those days when you need to run away, you want to escape life, you want to stop the world just for a while and get off? Those are the days when I grab Holly Bobbins, I jump on a bus or a train and we go on an adventure. Now granted, Stockton on Tees might not be the obvious choice but I'd been speaking with my good friend and retail blogger Graham Soult about a new restaurant which was opening in Stockton, not just a restaurant but a canine cafe and as it was the opening day on Saturday Holly and I bought ourselves a £9.70 explorer ticket (valid on pretty much all public transport from as far north as Berwick to as far south as Scarborough) and got on the X10 to Stockton, a pleasant 65 minute journey on a comfortable bus which often has wifi and even plugs to recharge your mobile accoutrement. Holly snuggled down for a nap (she adores the bus) and I watched the sunny views out of the windows. You get plenty of thinking time when you take the bus, it's the ultimate in slow travel, I wondered to myself how much of an adventure it could be to go from Berwick upon Tweed all the way to Scarborough on the bus, something to maybe attempt in the summer holidays when the general time constraints of life don't matter so much.
Stockton on Tees has not had the most glorious light cast upon it and apart from Graham singing it's praises I really hadn't heard good things so I was delighted to find that it's bad press is far from warranted. Stockton contains an array of independent shops, something which I applaud being the director of an association of entrepreneurial women in the North East of England.
Stockton is a pretty little market town, a riverside town, a rural town, you can even see the hills from many spots down by the riverside walk, it's even home to the only full sized replica of the HM Bark Endeavour, now that's one completely different place you could plan a wedding!
Lets get back to the main reason for our visit though, the Wags and Whiskers Canine Cafe, nestled on Finkle Street and not too far a walk from the Wags and Whiskers Pet Boutique a welcoming, bright little coffee shop where you can sit in the window with your four pawed sidekick is just the ticket on dark rainy days or bright sunshiny mornings alike, astroturf carpets the floor of the windows and every table has next to it a water bowl plus a bowl for any doggy treats you may like to purchase for your pampered pooch, Holly Bobbins opted for a "Savoury Woofin" whilst I went for a baked sweet potato and a very large latte.
One thing I particularly liked was the fact that non doggy owners were coming in as often as those accompanied by their canine companions, the busy throng of constant custom struck me more as a business who had been well established for years not one which had just that day opened for the first time, a very good sign.
I think Newcastle upon Tyne may need to take some inspiration from Stockton, although we have many dog friendly businesses I would freely welcome this style of cafe to appear on our quayside, after all we have 2 cat cafes and not one canine cafe!
After lunch and making our way for our riverside off lead walkies I stumbled upon Who-Ray, now I don't think you can get much more niche than a dog friendly sci-fi and gift emporium, dog friendly and Doctor Who? That's almost unbelievable and yet it probably made my day, whilst there are more dog friendly places to visit than far before, retail seems to be the area which still lags behind, this is something I don't really understand, as surely embracing those who want to be accompanied by their fluffy best friend would mean more money for those retailers. I for one am always so delighted that I try to especially spend my hard earned funds in dog friendly businesses and so it was no surprise that I came away from Who-Ray carrying a small bag of goodies for my sci-fi loving Whovian children.
After stocking up on Sci-Fi we walked over several bridges and found the most charming riverside paths, Holly had some off lead time and I wandered happily in the sunshine lost in my own thoughts just for a while.
I'm not entirely sure why this charming market town has had such bad press over the years but I know when it came to the time to climb back on board the X10 express to Newcastle I was already making visits to return, there are you see a great many more independent Stockton shops who freely welcome dogs and their owners and I can't wait for the summer when I plan to go back for a long summers day strolling the streets with Holly and discovering all that pretty Stockton has on offer and whilst I doubt that Holly is ever going to run through the dancing fountains on Stockton's high street I cannot say the same for Looby!