You can tell that winter will soon be open us when the beach huts along Preston seafront are put away for safe winter hibernation and the beaches are once again opened up for dogs to use.

From May 1 right through until September 30, dogs are, of course, banned from most of the area’s beaches.

But come the end of September when the majority of ‘grockles’ have returned home, we can once again reclaim the sands.

Like that famous scene from Braveheart, a mass of dog walkers - and their very happy dogs - descend, at long last, after months of prohibition we finally have our ‘freedom’!

And there are few more joyful sights, particularly on a brutally cold winter’s day with scores of dogs of all shapes and sizes happily running free, with barely a cross word between them.

Dog owners are of course, a very hardy bunch, and you will see them out with their beloved pets in all weathers, and up and down the country. Small businesses have realised and appreciated the power of the ‘dog pound’.

This is even more important in these straitened times and many a beach-side kiosk, or café is kept afloat through the lean winter period by the loyal patronage of its local dog walkers, stopping by for a coffee or, my personal favourite on a cold day, a hot chocolate!

It isn’t all about the humans of course; the benefits of free running on a beach are immense for our dogs. They get to socialise, play and interact with other dogs – and this all goes to contribute to a very happy and well adjusted canine population.

Now, I am sure there are some who will grumble: “That’s all well and good but it’s the mess they leave behind.”

I can’t speak for other beaches in the area but I know Preston beach very well and it’s usually spotless.

The regular users of this highly-prized facility are very responsible and woe betide any lazy dog owner!

I’ve witnessed several miscreants receiving a very severe tongue lashing – probably far more effective than a threat of a fine!