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Journal of a Livestock Looker – November

November 4, 2011

Author: Mary Harcourt – Volunteer Livestock Looker – The Chase.

In my last entry in the Journal of a Livestock Looker you may remember that I reflected on the ins and outs of finding our charges, the Shetland cattle, in The Chase. We have had two ‘alarms and excursions’ this week but so far Bo Peep’s technique still seems to be a very sensible one.

Monday found an anxious fellow looker on the telephone from The Chase. Were we free to come and help look for the cows? Our colleague had been looking for an hour and a half and had failed to find them, despite much calling and rattling of the bucket of cattle nuts. Reinforcements of lookers arrived and search parties sallied forth, their numbers augmented by a work party of volunteers. We spread out in all directions, keeping in touch by mobile phone. After quarter of an hour or so the phones were buzzing. The absconders had been located, quietly munching their way through brambles, bracken and beech leaves by the gate nearest to Woolton Lodge Gardens. When we arrived to join the winning looker in the game of hide and seek, the cows looked faintly surprised to see several people gazing earnestly at them, but continued their tranquil chewing in the shade of the trees, enjoying what was by now a very warm afternoon.

Then on Thursday a call came through from The Vyne to say that someone had called to say they had seen ‘one of the cows out’. I set off for the woods as I was about to do my normal Thursday check. I walked past the beech wood, over the stream and past the newt pond, round the meadow and up to the heathland. No sign of cows. I had passed a young couple and then a man with a dog but on inquiry none of them had seen the cows. However I was still on familiar territory for a cow hunt in the afternoons so undaunted I continued on my way. No sign on the heathland or in the woodland round about, so a right turn and down towards the lake. Keeping a sharp eye out on this path, which is a favourite for the cows in the afternoon, I was shortly rewarded with a sighting of Whitie, always the easiest to spot, lying comfortably chewing the cud with Blackie lying close by. I carried on down the path towards the lake and there in the bracken further down was Stripey also lying down and quite well camouflaged. Three cows located but what of the other two? Down the path and up again I went and finally, from among the bracken, Spotty stood up the better to reach some leaves from an adjacent tree. Four cows accounted for.

But what of Socks – perhaps she really had escaped! Unlikely, I thought, as the others looked very composed and calm. I decided to follow one of the paths through the bracken where a cow had obviously made a track. Within seconds a large black form rose gently up in front of me, bracken decorously draped round its horns, seeming slightly surprised to have been disturbed, its big brown eyes gazing at me – “So?” it seemed to say, “is there a problem?” No problem at all, I thought. Just as I had hoped, all five cows were enjoying the shade on a warm autumn afternoon, doing what cows do best – chewing the cud and contemplating the world. No panic, no problem.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Dave permalink
    December 16, 2011 8:55 am

    Despite the onset of Winter, the Chase is beginning to come alive again ! More visitors are arriving and more of those visitors seem to be appreciative of the work that’s been carried out over the past year.

    The benefits of the woodland thinning can clearly be seen now that the trees have shed their leaves with much more light reaching the woodland floor which should encourage healthier and diverse growth come the spring. In the meantime the low sun filtering through the trees is providing some magical views.

    The brash (remnants of some of the tree felling) is beginning to soften and fall back into the general landscape although some areas will take a little longer yet. Come spring much of this is likely to be swallowed up by the vigorous growth of renewed vegetation, where it will provide an ideal habitat for wildlife.

    The footpaths are much improved although one or two areas remain a little boggy in places. The “Welly Walks” are fun and boggy in lot’s of places !

    If you’ve not been to The Chase before, or not been for a while, it’s well worth the visit.

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