Steve W: two cattle encounters on the Pennine Way

I have reported some of the more unpleasant experiences I have had with cows over the years. There have been others, and I am always on edge when cattle are around.

Often you don’t know the cattle are there until you are a fair distance into the field. Sometimes you can avoid them by detouring around the edge of a field, but this is not always possible, eg if you need to cross a stream or drainage ditch by a bridge in the centre of the field.

If you get through the first field unscathed, further along the walk you will often find another field of cattle. At this point, going back is not an option.

First Incident: a cattle charge

On the 3rd June 2012, I was walking on my own along the Pennine Way in North Yorkshire, near Middleton. It was the Sunday of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee weekend, and a very wet day. I was in full wet-weather gear.

The footpath ran downhill, along the edge of a field. It was a smallish field and, as I entered, a handful of cattle ran up the hill away from me, and past a row of feed troughs. The feed troughs were across the middle of the field and parallel to my path.

Cows think loudly. I heard (or subsequently believe I did):
“Why did we run away”
“There’s only one of them”
“We can have ‘im”

At which point the feeding troughs came to my rescue, as the cows stopped at the gaps as if to say, “After you.” “No after you.”

This gave me a chance to yell “STOP” in a loud voice, which gave the cows cause for thought, and broke their momentum sufficiently for me to get out of the field.

This incident was unnerving.

I reached another field of cows a mile or two later on, and I bypassed this field. Later in the day, at the end of my walk, I had to pass close to a large number of cows and felt very nervous.

Second Incident: stampeding cows

The very next day, on the 4th of June, 2012, I was continuing along the Pennine Way and was near Airton, North Yorkshire. (Map reference SD 904 591)

The path enters a field from the south, alongside the River Aire. There were people picnicking on one side of the river. I was unable to see the full extent of field, but the map shows it narrowing as it reaches the village, and a road sweeps in from the right at the top of an embankment/slope.

As I got towards the narrowest part of the field, I saw cattle ahead, and saw they were getting frisky.

I assessed my options, because I was feeling nervous about cattle, having had a run-in the previous day.
1) I could get into the river, but if it was shallow enough for me it was shallow enough for cattle.
2) I could climb up the embankment.

The field was pear-shaped, and as I reached the narrowest part – low and behold – they charged. The path here was about 10 feet wide. The cattle were running shoulder to shoulder.

Up the embankment I went. It is a 50 foot climb, and a one-in-one slope, and I went all the way up to the dry stone wall at the top, before following this boundary to the exit.

Now I am confident that I was not the target of the cattle stampede – they didn’t even bother to look at me – but if I had stayed where I was I would have been collateral damage. I wasn’t injured, but I was badly frightened.

Although I wasn’t injured in either incident, they were scary experiences. I think footpaths along edges of fields should be segregated, especially if the path is named and promoted as a long-distance footpath.

Steve W

Header Image: Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

(1) Report 242609587
(2) Report 242610119

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