I wonder, when the herd returns to Wilden Marsh at the end of January 2018, fresh and full of grass from two months grazing Chaddesely Woods, will I want to get out of my warm bed at 6am every morning to resume early morning cattle checks in all weathers? I’m beginning to look forward to a break. Maybe I’ll set up a short project to compensate, or maybe I’ll just stay longer in bed.
The herd moved out of the Rhombus Field, made it’s way through the mud traps of the northern end of the Orchid Field, to settle in the southern swampy section immediately north of WFDCs Wilden Lane field: where the TB tests will take place at the end of this month. I called the cattle to the gate to count and inspect. Waynetta Galloway turned her back on me, but Wayne Galloway, unusually, stayed to chat. If I was able to understand Wayne, it might have been an interesting conversation, but as far as I could determine, on balance, judging by the tone of his bellowing, Wayne was likely complaining about the wet ground conditions again. Waynetta is a real gem, apart from the occasional sulk, she just gets on with her marsh duties without complaint. I spent around half an hour at the gate with the herd last evening, and Wayne spent the whole time staring at me.
Moving across the southern section of the 6.5 acre Orchid field is like walking on a wet sponge; when the herd rampages across it, the ground lifts, vibrates and wobbles. I feel unsteady, the soil begins to liquefy, and I slowly sink into the mud. The closer they get, the higher the ground lifts and the more unsettling my world becomes. Rampage is probably too strong a word to express the herds progress through the Orchid Field. I’m sure rampage is their intention, but the swampy ground grabs the cattle’s legs and slows their progress dramatically. It is a struggle for them to move any distance at speed around any of the wet compartments, so slow, ponderous, ungainly, mud plugging is the correct method of movement here, whether cattle or a person. Slow the cattle’s progress might be, but they still manage to make the ground beneath my wellies rock and roll.
The cattle’s bellowing this morning, or screaming in Rose’s case, was complemented with sounds of lions roaring and, I think, elephants trumpeting, mixed in with other wild animal noises, drifting onto the marsh from the safari park on the outskirts of Bewdley a couple of miles to the north-west; I guess it was animal feeding time there. A steam train chuffed its way across the Falling Sands Viaduct. For a few moments, I could have imagined I had slipped into a bygone age and a different reality – such is life on Wilden Marsh.