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National Trust plans ‘wee poles’ to stop dogs urinating on historic sites

Dog walker at National Trust properties
The Trust is facing growing calls from members to allow the pets to roam free in and around their properties - STasker/Digital Vision

The National Trust is planning to install “wee poles” to prevent dogs from urinating on historic buildings and trees, The Telegraph has learnt.

A “small handful of sites”, including Shugborough Estate in Staffordshire and Attingham Park in Shropshire, will see the 3ft wooden posts put up on their grounds as part of a trial.

High amounts of dog urine can increase the acidity of the soil and affect plants and the surrounding environment, the Trust said. Under the trial scheme, the urine will soak into permeable gravel underneath the oak poles rather than remaining on the surface.

Pheromones released in the urine will then encourage other dogs to relieve themselves at the same point, and the charity said signs will be placed near the poles to explain their purpose.

The Trust is facing growing calls from members, 43 per cent of whom own dogs according to recent polling, to allow the pets to roam free in and around their properties.

The charity has said it is trying to strike a balance between those who want sites to be dog-free and those who want them to have unfettered access.

National Trust guidance for dog walkers on Dunwich Heath, in Suffolk
National Trust guidance for dog walkers on Dunwich Heath, in Suffolk - pbpvision/Alamy

Other than assistance dogs, the Trust has banned dogs from entering nearly all historic houses over concerns that they might foul or damage the furnishings.

The sole exception is Dinefwr in Carmarthenshire, south-west Wales, after experts decided there would be “no negative impact on the collections or fabric of the building”. There are no plans to extend this to other sites, the Trust said.

Rules for dogs differ between properties, depending on whether there are large herds of deer nearby, a garden collection of international importance or “very delicate sites of specific scientific interests”.

Other experiments being tested out at sites across the UK as part of a Dogs Welcome project include dog washes, dog trailers, dog fields and dog-friendly trails, the charity said.

Project manager Ceinwen Paynton said: “We know lots of our members have dogs and we want them to be able to get out and enjoy themselves.

“We’re currently looking at a range of solutions to help balance access for dogs with measures to look after the environment. ‘Wee poles’ are one example. We haven’t yet installed these, but we plan to trial them at a small handful of sites.

“Dog urine is, of course, perfectly natural, but in high amounts it can increase the acidity of the soil and affect plants and the surrounding environment. This is an inexpensive and simple way to help us look after these places, while still making sure dog owners feel welcome.

“We’re also improving dog-friendly trails, providing more waste bins and wash-down areas, and creating dog-free spaces for wildlife, livestock and visitors.”