On the 9th May, 2022, we were walking on a public footpath across a field in West Burton, in the Yorkshire Dales. The footpath provides direct access into the village from a B road and from other public rights of way over adjoining fields.
It is an area we know well, and a route we’ve walked many times before. We had our dog with us on a lead.
We didn’t see the cows to start with, but when we reached the top of a slight incline we realised there were maybe eight cows in the field, which was quite small. Two cows were grazing directly in the line of the public footpath, so we gave them as wide a birth as we could, and walked in close proximity to the perimeter wall. We kept our small dog on a short lead.
The cows – with very little warning – became extremely agitated. We didn’t see the calves until it was too late. Suddenly, one of the cows came toward us. Then, a big brown cow got up and came charging.
“I shouted to Margaret to let go of the dog, which she did, and the dog ran away. I managed to get in front of the brown cow to protect my wife, but the cow butted me and tossed me up into the air like a matchstick. When I got up from the ground, I saw the cows were trampling Margaret. I ran at them, shouting and kicking.”
“The whole attack only lasted 20 seconds or so, but it seemed like a lifetime.”
“The next thing I knew, I was down on the ground, and the cow was trampling on top of me. I lay on my side and managed to protect my stomach. I truly believe if I had been on my back I would have been killed. I was wearing a leather bum bag, which probably saved me from worse injury. It was completely split in two by the force of the cows’ hooves.”
Injuries and aftermath
Margaret was airlifted by Yorkshire Air Ambulance to James Cook Hospital in Middlesbrough, where she was found to have suffered six broken ribs, a collapsed lung and, more seriously, a seven cm deep tear to her liver. She was kept in hospital for five days for observation, but luckily did not need surgery to repair her liver.
“We had to cancel our holiday to Tenerife. My ribs are still painful. I can’t swim or do pilates, like I used to, but at least I’m walking again. I walk the dog on my own, but if I come across a field of cows I have to turn back. I have to plan my walks now in order to avoid cows.”
“I don’t blame the cows, because its their maternal instinct to protect their calves. I blame the farmer for putting cows with calves in that field.”
“I think about it a lot. It goes through my mind – replays in my mind – when I’m in bed.”
Martin suffered minor injuries comprising cuts and bruises, was treated by paramedics and later checked out in A&E at the hospital.
“If I’d seen a sign warning there were cattle with calves in the field, we wouldn’t have gone in the field but would have taken a different route. The next day I spoke to the farmer. He said he had no fields without public rights of way across them, and asked ‘What can I do?’ We’re taking out a personal injury claim through our home insurance. I don’t want to ruin the man and I know he, the farmer, has public liability insurance.”
“I believe cows with young calves should not be put in fields where there are public rights of way. People should be able to enjoy the countryside and walk public footpaths without putting their lives at serious risk. “
As far as we know, the cows are still in the field.
Respondent ID: 264561024
Photo credit: Martin and Margaret’s own photos