Mad dogs and bad ramblers

Healthy specimen: the lamb that needed a night by Simon's fire before it had a spring in its step

Lambing is all but over apart from a few late stragglers that were obviously not too appealing to the rams last November. At the peak we were getting 100 lambs born per day, so were extremely grateful for the fantastic weather we were having and the warm nights.

The lamb warming box was redundant for the first lambing ever, although we did have one poor abandoned lamb make it into the house in front of the fire one night. It soon rejuvenated itself and went from looking like a “dier” to a healthy lamb within a few hours and rejoined the flock the following morning. I’m not sure the dog was too impressed with her place in front of the fire being occupied by the new arrival, or for that matter “Her Indoors” with the thought that the farm animals had finally encroached into the house!

With these warmer and lighter days, the footpath walkers are appearing in larger numbers. We have the misfortune of having two footpaths through our farm. Both these would have been created many decades ago, with the goodwill of the landowners at the time, to allow fellow countrymen the most direct route to their workplace before the age of the motor vehicle.

There are some great footpaths and walks around the area, including the Saxon Shore path that goes through some of our land. It is very well signposted, used excessively and has some great scenery and diverse nature to admire. There are also several paths that should be closed or diverted due to them now becoming wholly inappropriate for the modern leisure use that the paths have predominantly become used for.

The main trouble with footpaths on a livestock farm is the alarming increase of livestock worrying by dogs, of which there were more than 200 incidents reported in Kent and Sussex last year. Dogs chasing livestock uncontrollably, regardless of whether they attack them or not, can be treated as dangerous dogs under the Dog Act.

I have had my fair share of deaths and casualties caused by dogs over the years, but certainly don’t blame the “untrained” dogs for what comes to them naturally. The blame lies entirely at the hands of the owners. Perhaps if the owner was put down instead of the poor dog, these irresponsible people would be more inclined to put their dogs on a lead around farm animals.

Victims: part of a poster nailed to a post on a farm near Winchelsea
Victims: part of a poster nailed to a post on a farm near Winchelsea

Fortunately the incidents of livestock turning the tables and attacking the ramblers are very rare, but it does happen. Cattle might walk over if they are intrigued by the new person in their field, but mostly tend to keep their distance. We did have an incident last year where two ramblers had strayed from the path and took refuge in some cattle pens after my neighbours cattle had surrounded them. After several hours of hoping the cattle would return to their grazing without success, they rang the police and were relieved when I turned up to escort them back to the path.

On a lighter note to end, it may rain “cats and dogs” in England, but in which country does it rain sheep? Get ready to groan . . . Bahrain!

* Simon Wright is a farmer at East Guldeford where he and his wife Anne also run a holiday cottages business. Click here to visit their website





Photos: Simon Wright (main image)/Tony Nunn