On the 20th of August, 2021, I set off from Buxton with my friend Tony, for what we expected to be a gentle 10 mile walk.
We strolled through Staden on the first section of the Peak District Boundary Walk (also part of the Mid Shires Way) and over a couple of stiles on a public footpath. The weather was benign as we walked through Staden, over one stile and then another into a field with some cows. The cattle were a creamy-brown colour and I think they were Herefords.
Neither of us were nervous around cattle but, as we moved forward, the cows surrounded us. At that moment I saw they had young calves with them, which set warning bells ringing. But the cows moved slowly and did not appear aggressive.
Suddenly, before we could move away, I was pushed to the ground by a mother cow. I fell full length and, Tony tells me, I clearly bounced.
The cow started stamping on me as I tried to get away. Then I saw Tony also being pushed to the ground too. I managed to get to my feet and began hammering on the flank of the cow which was tramping on Tony. I could see blood on his face. It looked bad. Then suddenly I was knocked over a second time. So now there were two of us in the same helpless state.
I tried to protect myself but while I was lying on the ground with a ton of cow above me, I was feeling extremely vulnerable.
Fortunately, the herd decided that the threat had been eliminated – ‘Job done!’ – and wandered away to the other end of the field, leaving us gasping for breath, in pain and in deep shock.
We started to recover. I was gasping for breath and my chest hurt where the cow had pressed down on me. After a little while, and still shaking, we made our way back the way we had come. We struggled very slowly over a couple of stiles, still in a state of shock. At the first house we reached, I rang the bell to ask the lady to call a taxi, but they kindly took us to the local minor injuries clinic. We must have looked a terrible sight with dirt and blood on our faces. Buxton booked taxis to take me to Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport, while Tony went to Macclesfield.
At the hospital, I had scans, x-rays and had a cut on my arm treated. I was told I had broken ribs, but no serious injuries and sent home.
As well as the broken ribs, I had severe bruising to arms and ankles, chest and back, laceration to one arm. I also had persistent neck ache – similar to whip-lash – from when my head was thrown back when I hit the ground.
I reported the incident to the police, and to the Peak and Northern Footpaths Society, and the Long Distance Walkers Association. Also, I tried to report the event to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), but found it very difficult to record the incident on the HSE website. I submitted an online form which was ‘not validated’. I have written to the HSE (5th Oct 2021) but have had no reply. I have heard nothing from the police although they were contacted twice in the week after the accident.
We saw no warning signs and we didn’t have a dog with us. The farmer’s daughter told me that the cattle had broken into the field with the Right of Way footpath because the field fence had been cut by people trying to liberate badgers. I have no way of confirming this statement.
I am lucky that I have made a full recovery, but others such as Pip Peacock, recently featured on BBC Radio 4, have not been so fortunate. If one of the cows which trampled on me had stamped on my head or a vital organ, it’s easy to see how another fatality might have hit the news and it might have been me!
Respondent ID 257450034, David Gosling (Peak and Northern Footpaths Society)
All other images are David’s own photographs