On the 26th September, 2020, my husband and I were on a footpath in Gloucestershire. We were walking along the Wye River heading from Brockweir to Bigsweir, on the St Briavel’s side of the river. We were in a field at the bend of the river (co-ordinates on google map: 51.729914, -2.686725).
Our dog, a cocker spaniel, was under control and on a lead. There was also a group of 6 walkers just behind us with no dog. It was 6 o’clock in the evening.
We came to a field of cows, and saw there were a couple of bulls in that field and no apparent calves. The cows were spread out in the field, but mostly heading towards the river bank, and therefore blocking the footpath. We decided to avoid the footpath and walk further up the field to try and walk around the herd, although they were spread out all across our path way.
The cows noticed us and started to run towards us. I let the dog off the lead and some of the cows went running after her, but she was obviously petrified and kept running between my husband and myself. My husband and I got separated.
I was surrounded by at least eight cows by a gate in the middle of the field, and then a cow ran at me and headbutted into my leg, and crushed me against the gate.
Another group of cows surrounded my husband closer to the river bank. They charged at him, butted into his hip and back, and knocked him over.
Luckily one of the walkers behind us came and clapped to try and move the cows on. With the cows distracted, we were able to run up to the top of the field towards a house called ‘Knoll Farm’ and climb over the fence. Whilst running up the hill, we could see the man was now surrounded by cows. He had been knocked to the ground and was being trampled on.
I genuinely thought he was going to be killed.
I called for an ambulance (this was at 6.08pm), but I had a bad phone signal, and they struggled to locate me.
Five minutes later, I saw the man had managed to stand up, and the group of walkers he was with had got to the other side of the field. So I cancelled the ambulance at 6.33pm, but I was unable to speak with the man, or the other walkers, or check if they really were OK.
I tried to report the incident to Gwent Police but they said this area was Gloucestershire and asked, “What did I want them to do about it?” I found this incredibly rude and insensitive.
There was a genuine possibility there could have been three deaths that afternoon.
What I would like to happen next:
I would like the farmer to be contacted, and for the cows to either be moved so they are not on a public footpath, or for there to be more warning signs up. We saw other walkers with groups of children and dogs that day, and I am scared something serious could happen.
We saw no warning signs about cattle, but just general signs to say keep your dog under control, clean up dog mess etc. We saw there was livestock from a distance, and at first thought they were sheep (we were far away), so put the dog on a lead before they saw us or her.
This attack has been reported to the police, the Ramblers association, the Health and Safety Executive, and the local authority. I have heard back from Gloucestershire Police and they said there is nothing they will do. I think the local footpath officer and HSE are looking into it, but might dismiss it as there were no fatalities. It’s sad to think they only take cases seriously when a death happens, and that there aren’t any preventative measures before it gets to that stage.
The aftermath of the attack:
Luckily, our dog, Mabel, was unharmed.
She was chased and surrounded by cows, but she managed to out run them – although she kept running back to us, and then the cows would charge at her and myself and my husband.
She was obviously very traumatised and anxious from the whole event.
I’m certainly still very jumpy when I go on dog walks alone, and keep planning my escape route from cows even when I know there aren’t any around. I am sure the memory will fade and we’ll get over it eventually.
Having grown up in the countryside, I’ve never experienced anything like this before. I genuinely thought we were going to die.
We will never risk walking through a field of cows ever again. I massively underestimated the risk, and never imagined that the whole herd would go for you. I don’t think cows should be allowed where there are public footpaths. I’m sure in reality that would be very hard for farmers to achieve, but it is so dangerous and just not worth the risk. At the bare minimum I would like signs up to warn walkers of cows and risks, and to advise to find alternative routes if you have a dog.
Image of Mabel: author’s own.
Incident reference 242188075