In my spare time, I volunteer as a Warden in Epping Forest. I do this not only because I enjoy it but also that I have a strong sense that we, as a community, have stewardship of this great asset and so we all need to help to take care of it.
The jobs are many and varied and include patrolling, checking Public Rights Of Way and talking to the public. Surprisingly though, one of the jobs that I have found to enjoy the most is helping with the
forest’s conservation herd of English Longhorn Cattle.
There are over two hundred of these animals currently spread over several sites in the north of the forest. Occasionally they need to be moved to fresh pastures and this is where the extra hands provided the Volunteer Wardens are especially useful.
One of the cattle moves this summer developed into what I now refer to as the “Battle of Copped Hall”. It took place when a team of four Wardens went to help the permanent staff to relocate 102
animals from Copped Hall Deer Park.
It was planned to be just a simple move to new grazing pastures about a mile away. But you know what they say about what happens when a plan meets reality!
All started well with the cattle being enticed up the track with the lure of their favourite food. But when they reached the open ground next to Copped Hall, it all started to go horribly wrong!
It was explained to me later that the first instinct of cattle when finding themselves on unknown ground is to turn around and go back to a place that they know. So, as we were trying to make them go up the hill and turn to the right, they started to go to the left instead and head back the way they had come.
This resulted in a stand-off between we humans and the cattle who refused all our efforts to make them move forward.
Then, their second instinct kicked in – Run! Did you know that cattle can run at up to 30 mph? The sight of many half-ton animals running towards you from a short distance certainly helps to focus your priorities!
The Herdsman, however, did a magnificent job in heading them off. Using a truck to get around the large field, he managed to coax the cattle to move in the right direction. We non-professional Wardens just did our best to keep up.
The outcome, however, was never in doubt and the cattle were soon happily ensconced in their new
The Wardens still have a lot to learn from the Herdsmen but we enjoy the work and might be a little more useful to them in the future.