In 2008, I was walking with a friend. We were on a footpath crossing farmland in West Sussex, and we had three dogs walking quietly with us and all on leads.
There were cows in the field. I don’t know the breed, but they were mainly brown cows. They didn’t have young calves but there were some probably not yet fully grown.
We were walking on the path close to the hedge when the herd moved very quickly to block our path. We tried to turn back but they rushed around to once more block our path. We saw a gate across the field and decided to walk towards that. Big mistake.
We had only walked a short distance when we heard the galloping of cows from behind.
I was knocked down and the cows repeatedly kicked me all over my body, including my head. I was disoriented and confused, and resigned to dying in that field.
My friend was also hit, but was tossed clear.
In the confusion, I didn’t know what was happening, and I didn’t realise I still had the lead from one of the dogs around my wrist. I heard a voice saying, “Let go of the dog.” I managed to get the lead off my wrist and the dog ran off. Luckily the cows followed the dog and left me alone.
My friend had shouted the warning. She and I managed to get back to the hedge and we crawled through a small gap – just in time, because the dog had escaped and the cows were now running back towards us.
We were both injured. I had a broken nose, broken ribs and severe bruising. My friend had a damaged shoulder and severe bruising. I went to see my GP but, luckily, no treatment was needed for the fractures.
Afterwards, we reported the attack to the police and to the farmer. The police weren’t interested and, as far as I know, there was no investigation and no report made to the Health and Safety Executive. Although we were both badly hurt, neither of us missed time from work and we didn’t seriously consider suing.
We were both in our 50s at the time of the attack. My walks in the countryside were considerably curtailed. The two favourite walks near my home had fields that sometimes had cows in them, so I’ve stopped using them and probably still walk less than I used to.
Perhaps we should have electric fences to separate cows from footpaths?
I am delighted that you are collecting this information because our footpaths are such a wonderful asset for all of us, and it seems extraordinary that they can be denied to us by a few inconsiderate farmers. And, of course, we were lucky. No permanent damage was done. It could so easily have been very much worse.
It is so important that the true scale of this danger is realised.