A Stampede Of Cows

As well as this gardener walking about in his shirt-sleeves and whistling, there are various other markers that spring has finally arrived:


from the scent of wild garlic by the riverbank;


to early purple orchids,


Camassia quamash flowering on the meadow,


the rock border overflowing with forget-me-nots


and butterflies emerging – albeit a cabbage white.

But the big landmark spring event for me is the turning out of Margaret’s cows from their winter quarters to grass.


It is a sight I try not to miss; from their deafening impatient lowing to their excitement and exuberance at being set free.


Having spent months in the sheds, they are a little hesitant at first; the calves especially so – having spent their whole lives indoors, they are blinded by the light.  (Those sheep really ought to get out-of-the-way).


But suddenly, faced with all that space, these huge, matronly beasts (weighing in excess of 1000lbs)


hurl themselves about


with gay abandon.


Last year, I perched on a rickety stile and felt a little vulnerable as they thundered past – just a couple of feet away.


So this year, I positioned myself behind a hawthorn hedge


which, as the cows came nearer, seemed increasingly flimsy and worryingly inadequate.


Thankfully, the thudding of hooves drowned out my whimpering as they barreled on toward me – with no sign of slowing.  Gulp.


An open gate was just to my right




it was only


at the very last moment that they swerved away from me … and I could breath again.

According to the Office for National Statistics, cows kill more people in the UK than almost any other animal – accounting for about 5 deaths a year*.  Mostly the victims are dog-walkers who pick up their dogs (or hold onto the leash) when cattle become agitated.  Please don’t do either; your dog can outrun a cow better than you.  And if it can’t, I would suggest that you don’t take it into a field of cows in the first place.


One calf, with a whole new world to explore, sought out only the pleasures of the manure pile.  Margaret and I spent twenty minutes cajoling him into re-joining the herd.


And so, all’s well with the world.  Job done and the cows back out to pasture, in the fields above the Priory greenhouses.  It is fine to have them back – just so long as they don’t come into the gardens again.  (See ‘Cows in the Asparagus’).

If your local farmer offers to show you her galloping heifers, go for it.  You won’t be disappointed; just make sure you stand somewhere nice and safe.


*  The animal which kills the most people in the UK is the horse, accounting for 10 deaths per year, 2nd cows, 3rd dogs – 4 per year, 4th bees and wasps – 3 per year.

41 thoughts on “A Stampede Of Cows

  1. I can well imagine their thrill Dave, to be alive again.
    I can remember having to cross a paddock of bovines way out in the middle of nowhere, on the edge of a volcanic crater in western Victoria not so long ago, and wondering if maybe this time I was risking my life one centimeter too much just for the sake of exploring the scenery. They’re powerful beasts. I wouldn’t mess with them for a moment.
    Glorious photos. All of life understands joy.


    • It is remarkable, Faisal what an important part of my year the release of Margaret’s cows has become. I think I’ve only missed it once in the last five years. Their ungainly exuberance is just such a damn fine thing to see. Dave


  2. Lovely post and great to see the excited cows. We used to have a meadow behind the house which occasionally the farmer used for his cows. They were hilarious, always lowing to each other as they progressed in a herd around the field. Basically a huge group of women chatting….


  3. When I saw the title of your post I did think ‘Oh no! Not again’. I thought they had rampaged through the Priory once more. Such great images. I love how you’ve captured the moment. I’m always a little wary of cows. I’m not especially happy about walking through fields with them. I was on a school trip and about 9 and we had been walking through a field when a teacher noticed a bull charging towards us. Apart from the teacher I was one of the last few over the fence and it was terrifying. I have been known to make my OH extend a walk by several miles just so I don’t have to walk through a field of cows. I’m a sucker for an orchid too, so loving your early purple shot. If I could I’d love to travel the country seeking out our native orchids.


    • Hi WW, as I’ve said below I’ve had my own share of scary cow moments; waving your arms about and shouting really does work if you haven’t got a quick exit nearby. A friend of mine had to run up a bank and leap over a hedge to escape the other week whilst out jogging. He was quite shaken but unharmed. And I’m always thrilled to find orchids popping up at the Priory. I’ve had to mark one with a stick that is growing in the middle of the lawn to avoid mowing it. D


    • Hi Amelia, I thought most people have been chased by cows at some point. On a long distance footpath a few years ago, we really had to shout and wave our arms about to get through a crowd of young bullocks. I think they were more curious than aggressive – but it was still a little hairy. D


  4. with all those gorgeous flower portraits you started with, I’d assumed the post was about cow parsley. Thundering heifers was a sight to see


    • Hi Janet, the orchids (there about 8 of them) are up on the drive and were pointed out to me by a friend from the village. They haven’t flowered there before so I was very pleased. Just hope no-one picks them – the drive is a public right of way. D


  5. Fun, with an extra frisson of danger! We have had cows back in our field for several weeks now, sometimes I wake in the night to hear all sorts of odd noises drifting in the window, and I know that the cows must be huddled up along the boundary below the window. The gushing of water on a dry night is the most disconcerting… 😉


  6. Your orchids are super, as is your Camassia, I’m so fond of blue flowers, but your photos of cows are just amazing!! Well done you for holding your ground behind the hedge, a scary moment, the lengths you go to just to take some photos for your posts!


  7. Fabulous photos, though a little scary. I have to admit to being a tad scared of cows, they have this strange habit of coming towards you en masse if you are walking through a field of them and they are so big. I love the frolicking ones in your photos


    • I think being a little scared of cows is quite wise, Helen. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been chased by or worried by them whilst out walking my dogs. My whole family was once chased out of a field by a herd charging down on us like a host of wildebeest. D


  8. Love these images. You rarely see cattle outside here, they spend their lives inside, poor things, so I particularly enjoyed your photos. The camasia is an amazing blue with the bright yellow stamens. Christina


  9. It is a moment I love too – if I look out through the back bedroom window I can see the cows in the back fields leaping about like leapy things but they soon get their heads down for all that fresh grass, the second best sight is when lambs jump up and down on the spot just happy to be alive. Maybe that’s the way we should all celebrate after a long winter indoors.


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