Today has been a Wilden Marsh Volunteer Workday, and we worked the same area as the cattle: the southern marsh entrance. It poured with rain at the start of the day, cleared up for a while and then rained, on and off, throughout the afternoon.
The cattle avoided us most of the day, but as soon as the volunteer day ended and I was left working on my own, they paid me a visit.
I saw the herd approach, led by Billy Bull. The herd stopped to graze around the sluice, where I had been working. Billy, though, strode purposely onwards towards me with an expression that gave nothing away, but his swagger, and the fact that his eyes were fixed firmly on mine, told me that he was looking for trouble and that he would be getting too close to me again – and he did! He all but nudged me in the stomach with his nose. I called him a cheeky bull and stamped my foot hard on the ground, causing him to back-off smartish. Billy then turned his attention to my lunch spot and folding stool. When Billy doesn’t understand what he’s dealing with, he tests it with tongue, nose, and horns.
The first thing Billy heads for is my pitch fork; he licks it, pushes it, and horns it. He moves onto my stool; he licks it, pushes it with his nose, horns it, and tosses it around a few times. Investigating my jacket, he licks it, smells it, and horns it. My gloves fall on his head, startling him; the jacket falls and completely covers his horns and head. Now Billy really panics! He paws the ground, bucks his head and drives his horns and my jacket into the soil; he frees himself from the jacket, tosses it in the air a few times, and ends up with his head covered in cut thistles. He calmly re-joines the herd and takes his frustration out on them. Rose rushes up behind Billy and horns him hard in his rear end, banishing him grunting and groaning from the herd. The cows, and Rose in particular, won’t put up with Billy’s antics.
Earlier in the day Andy Harris, Worcestershire Wildlife Trust’s Northern Reserves Officer (my boss) visits us. We all walk to the North Pond Sluice to check the water levels. As we chatted at the gate, the cattle joined us – they were inquisitive, but behaved themselves admirably. Bill Foxall, a marsh volunteer, thought the cattle were cute and tried to stroke Billy Bull. If I wanted to stroke any of the cattle, Billy Bull wouldn’t be my choice. Fortunately, Billy Bull walked away and didn’t try to horn Bill Foxall. If Bill Foxall had witnessed Billy Bull’s antics this afternoon, I doubt he would try stroking the bull again. My advice to everyone, apart from those used to handling these beasts, is don’t try stroking Billy Bull! Billy Bull is a great lad, and I find him very entertaining, but he is a bull; he gets frustrated when he doesnt get his way, if you know what I mean.