The Great British Dog Walk, a popular charity dog walk run by national charity Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, is back for a sixth year and is coming to Raby Castle in County Durham on 15 March 2020. This is the first time the walk has been held at Raby Castle.

Hundreds of walkers of all ages, and dogs of all shapes and sizes, will be taking part to have fun, meet like-minded people and support Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, the charity that trains dogs to alert deaf people to important and life-saving sounds and help deaf people to leave loneliness behind. The walk is sponsored by Specsavers Audiologists, helping Hearing Dogs to raise more funds to transform the lives of deaf people.

On the day there are two walk options – either 8km or 3km routes, making it ideal for dog owners, families, single walkers, organised walking groups and those who simply want to meet lots of dogs and get a bit of exercise for a good cause. There will also be fun additional activities at the walk, including hearing dog stalls, demonstrations and a fun dog show.

Walkers can get themselves or their dogs sponsored by friends, family and colleagues to raise money to fund hearing dog puppy Oscar’s training journey. Oscar is a cocker spaniel puppy who has just started his training to become a life-changing hearing dog. Over the next two years he will be trained to alert deaf people to important sounds, such as the smoke alarm, intruder alarm, alarm clock and cooker timer.

It costs around £40,000 to fully train and support a hearing dog for the duration of its life and Hearing Dogs for Deaf People receives no government funding so every walker will be helping to transform the lives of deaf people.

Karen Bell from County Durham is one of the people from the area who is currently benefiting from a hearing dog. Karen was born with very narrow ear canals and underwent a series of operations to widen them but the surgery didn’t work. Her hearing has got worse over the years and she now has a bone-anchored hearing aid. She and Hearing Dog Vimmie became a partnership four years ago.

Karen says: “I thought I was coping, but it really hit home just how vulnerable I was when I was away on a training course with a previous employer and had to stay in a hotel overnight. I’d advised staff I was deaf and I was there with colleagues but when I went down to breakfast I was asked if I’d heard the fire alarm earlier that morning as they’d all had to evacuate? No I said, I’m deaf remember! Oh well, it was only a false alarm was the response – good job I thought! I dreaded going away after that.

“Then when Vimmie came into my life, it was just such a relief to know he was there to alert me to all those sounds I miss. Even with my hearing aid in, I don’t always hear the doorbell, but Vimmie does and he always lets me know with a quick nudge and then guides me to the door.

“He’s given me such a confidence boost and I’m never really alone now. I’m so grateful to Hearing Dogs and am now doing my bit to give something back and spread the word about this fabulous charity by volunteering as a speaker, with Vimmie too, of course.”

Carina Hummel, Director of Audiology Operationsat Specsavers, which supports the Great British Dog Walk, said: “The Great British Dog Walk is an excellent way for people to have fun, get some exercise, meet like-minded people and perhaps most importantly, meet lots of cute dogs while supporting a good cause.

“If every person who walked the Great British Dog Walk raised just £10 by getting themselves or their dog sponsored the charity could fully train another dog to alert deaf people to important and life-saving sounds that they would otherwise miss and help them to leave loneliness behind.

“We’re so proud of our involvement in the Great British Dog Walk and the fact that it helps to transform the lives of deaf people. We’re very much looking forward to the walk at Raby Castle and hope lots of people in the area will come along and show their support.”

There is a free limited-edition Great British Dog Walk dog bandana for each adult ticket purchased for the walk and working hearing dogs will be available to meet on the day.

Tickets to each event are £10 in advance or £12 on the day and sponsorship is encouraged to help Hearing Dogs train more life-changing dogs.

To sign-up to the Great British Dog Walk at Raby Castle, or for more information visit www.greatbritishdogwalk.org.uk