On the 22nd August, 2019, I was walking with my husband on a popular public footpath near Belper, Derbyshire. There were no warning signs at the entrance to the field, but we saw there were Aberdeen Angus cows in the field. We knew that a lot of people walk through here, so we felt safe.
We are experienced walkers and my husband has worked with cows.
At a gap in the wall, where the footpath went through, there was a lone cow. As we got near we were shocked to see a very young calf hidden by the wall in the undergrowth. By the time we saw it, it was too late to avoid trouble.
The cow charged at my husband knocking him down. I hit the cow on the back with my walking pole to stop it attacking my husband – then it went for me. I was flipped into the air and fell onto the ground. When I was on the ground, the cow reared up and put its full weight on me.
My husband managed to get up and shouted at the cow, which eventually moved away. I was taken to hospital by road ambulance, because the air ambulance was in use elsewhere.
I was admitted to hospital with the following injuries;
- 6 breaks in my pelvis,
- 7 broken ribs, 6 of which were flail breaks,
- 4 broken transverse processes on my spine,
- and a chipped scapular.
In hospital, I had a chest drain inserted and I was in HDU for two nights with a non invasive ventilator. I had an operation to stabilise my pelvis with two metal bars inserted, one of which I had removed in January this year, but the other will stay for life.
Unfortunately, in hospital I acquired pneumonia, and then atrial fibrillation due to the pneumonia. I was in hospital for 3 weeks altogether.
At home, I developed a deep vein thrombosis in my leg, due to being immobile.
After 12 months I am getting back to do some of the things I used to, but it has been a long, painful process. Before this happened, I was very fit and used to walk in 26 mile events.
I am left with anxiety, insomnia, chest pain, hip pain, low stamina, and a serious fear of cows!
There were no warning signs at the time of the attack, but some people who live nearby put up a warning sign after the incident.
The incident was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive. I was told the HSE inspector went to look at the site and met the farmer, and recommended they must put signs up, and not have very young calves in that field. A year later, we could see there were cows in the field and the signs indicated there were calves, but we did not get close enough to see if there were young ones amongst them!
The farmer was called to the field by a neighbour when I had the accident, and was hysterical when she saw me. She told us she would destroy the cow, and that a similar incident happened the previous year (although not as bad) with a different cow. I found out on Facebook that there was a further incident in the same field a couple of years before. Later, the farmer told my husband they had kept the cow as she was “fine now”.
The farmer suggested we make a claim as they were with National Farmer’s Union, and the claim is going through now. The NFU have been very good in paying for physio, counselling, hypnotherapy and a new office chair for when I resume my MSc studies as a mature student.
Changes I would like to see
Cows with calves should not be in fields with a public footpath running through. Better signage is needed.
If calves are in the field with a footpath, it should not be possible for them to have a calf hidden out of sight of a walker on a path, for example, in undergrowth or behind a wall.
Cows which attack people should be kept away from the public, or should be destroyed so the aggressive genes are not passed on.
Photo credits: All photos are victim’s own.