Grazing The New Falling Sands Nature Area
The new Falling Sands Nature Area came into being very recently as a result of building the new Hoobrook Bypass and bridge over the River Stour and Worcester and Staffordshire Canal. The nature area is under the control of Wyre Forest District Council and, like Wilden Marsh, it’s part of the north/south wildlife corridor snaking its way through the county.
The marsh cattle are to begin grazing the new Falling Sands Nature Area for the first time today. To gain access the herd must pass through a new gate in Hoo Brook Pasture and immediately cross an old narrow concrete bridge over the brook, and they haven’t crossed this bridge before. So there was some concern about whether the cattle might make a break for the McDonald’s takeaway, a hundred metres upstream of Hoo Brook.
I prepared the herd for the move over the last week, and they had lain in the North Corral most of this morning waiting for me.
To minimise the risk of the cattle making a break for it, two countryside Rangers and Kidderminster’s Countryside Officer came along to cover possible escape routes. We came to Hoo Brook Pasture from opposing directions this afternoon: Paul, Nicole and Adam from the Sewage works, and me through the Lagoon Field.
I walked though the corral and the cattle began following me down the ramp to Hoo Brook Pasture. Paul shouted for me not let the cattle in the pasture yet, which is when the herd realised that other people down there might mean it was TB testing time again, so they decided to stay put. Paul explained the plan: I was to lead the cattle whilst he and the Rangers covered potential escape routes. It wasn’t long before the proceedings dissolved into something akin to Fred Karno’s Army, with Adam calling the herd and Paul shaking a bucket containing a lock and chain at the cattle: as if they would be fooled by this! The herd, wondering what on earth was happening, didn’t know whether to hold their ground or run. I made my move, opened the gate, and rushing over the bridge. Paul promptly shut the gate after me and continued shouting instructions to the cattle and the Rangers, whilst vigorously shaking his bucket with all his might. Adam made his way around the herd, like a modern-day Lance Corporal Jones from Dad’s Army, and shut the main pasture gate to stop the cattle backtracking. The only calm person was Nicole.
I stood in the middle of the concrete bridge waiting for the gate to open, In desperation, I called the cattle. Unusually, Waynetta reacted almost immediately by shouldering her way to the front of the herd. “Let the Galloway through,” I shouted to Paul as Waynetta appeared at the bridge gate. She pushed her curly haired head between Nicole and Paul, and an image of people being head butted into the brook flashed through my mind. Nicole quickly stepped back and shouted to Paul. Seeing the Galloway’s nodding head so close was all the encouragement Paul needed to open the gate and allow her and Tyson to pass through. It was around this point that I found myself in possesion of the bucket with the chain in it, so I dutifully began shaking it vigorously – I never use a bucket to attract the cattle. The rest of the herd quickly followed and we were soon safely in the new nature area. Paul is ultimately responsible for the cattle. I look after them on Wilden Marsh and now the new nature area, so he had plenty of incentive to make sure the move went smoothly.
I hope it’s as easy getting the cattle back onto the marsh: maybe it won’t be. I hope also that my jibes here won’t prevent Adam, Nicole and Paul from helping me get the cattle back on the marsh in a couple of weeks time. 🙂