Friday, 16 September 2011

Cattle Droving in the UK   (No1)   

At one time cattle were always driven to market; some times miles away in the local town, and nearly every house or cottage had a garden gate that could be shut as the cattle were herded by.

Then from the market they were herded again to the slaughter house (although there was often a slaughter house adjoining the sale yards) or out to whoever had purchased them if they were stores.

Father recalled the time when he was driving a few bullocks into market, and whilst walking down a side street in town, one bullock saw an open shop door, it decided to hop up the step and went into a shop. Being only a very small shop there was nowhere to turn round as the counter formed a passage where the customers stood.
The old lady behind the counter screamed with astonishment as the beast filled her shop, the bullock struggled to turn round to make an escape, in doing so it pushed the counter and all things behind it across and up to the goods on display along the back wall. This trapped the shop keeper; the bullock did what came natural and lifted its tail and plastered the counter and wall with muck then hopped out to continue its walk to market.

In our village there were seven herds of cows that all travelled and walked out to distant pastures each day and back for evening milking. The small holding with about twelve cows crossed the path of four herds, first he would if not careful he would travel along a hundred yards of road that the Yews farm cows walked, then pass across the path of the Green Farm yard where there cows emerged, then past Church Farm where both herds walk to the same lane, then at the ford those two herds crossed the path of Village Farm herd.

Three herds walked down the same cow lane branching off into there respective fields. The two herds at the other end of the village crossed paths and were walking the same two hundred yard stretch of road, but in opposite directions, so a regular time for turning the cows out was most important.

For some reason the Church Farm cows were very late on being brought in for evening milking, and met with the smallholding cows coming out in the opposite direction down a narrow stretch of road near the ford. Forty two cows heading south and twelve cows heading north.

At the ford there is a narrow brick foot path bridge for pedestrians to cross, and the majority of cows preferred to go over the bridge as the bottom of the ford is very stony and hard on their feet. The forty cows (heading towards the church, Church Farm.)got strung out into a single line or as near as cows do, so the herd of twelve cows were walked steadily through in being tapped gently to remind then which direction they supposed to go and after about five minuets both herd continued on their way not having "lost" any to the other herd.

In the next village a farmer there always went to Ireland to purchase fifty or more store bullocks each spring, these came over on the ferry to Holly Head where they were loaded onto railway wagons.
Cattle wagon on the railway were couple next to the steam locomotive, the wagons being loose coupled they sprung and slapped the buffer as the brakes were applied and when power was put on to start pulling. This ricocheted down the length of the train, the smoothest ride was next to the engine.
His cattle were unloaded at the station yard in the village until it was closed by Dr, Beeching, (The government minister in charge of reforming the railways at that time, he cut off many branch lines and closed many local stations) then they had to unload further down the line at the station in town.
From there they were walked about six miles back to his farm, by this time they were tired and hungry from the journey, so could be seen snatching grass as they passed through our village stopping for five minuets at the ford to water them.

So cattle droving did happen in England, but in a quite minuscule way compared to cattle drives over the pond.

Cattle on the Railway Line.

1960 The trains were nearly all pulled by diesels a few goods trains were still steam. Two trains had already stopped from north and two from south, ( It's 4 sets of rail tracks runing through our fields)everyone stuck their heads out of the carriage windows to see what had halted there journey. The cattle were recovered from the opposite embankment between the four locomotives.

One morning while milking cows, a phone call came from railway man,
It was the Bridgeford signal box, reported cattle onto line had ran,
He put his signals onto caution, don't worry drivers on "visual", will run
We race off down the Moor Lane, to cattle grazing in the morning sun.

Two trains they had already halted, and two more rolling to a stop,
They left a gap through which to drive, cattle back to embankment top,
Four *lengthsmen helped and a driver, and hundreds of people watched,
Three express trains and one commuter, why their journey scotched.

The cattle hopped cross four main lines, and back into the field,
Embankment fire had burned a post; rail fell down a gap revealed,
We thanked the drivers and local men, for their quick advance,
Fast line trains do speed at seventy, cattle wouldn't stand a chance.

Owd Fred

*Lengthsmen; railway workers, looked after length of track, usually 3-4 miles per group of six
I must say that this is a very busy stretch of line,and is the main London to Scotland main line, the Royal Scot(1950's) steamed past at full speed very day at about three o'clock and back to return to London in the early hours of the morning . Many of the steam express trains were pulled by named engines.

(Of the parallels between the railways and the church) Both had there heyday in the mid-nineteenth century, both own a great deal of Gothic-style architecture which is expensive to maintain, both are regularly assailed by critics, and both are firmly convinced that they are the best means of getting man to his ultimate destination
Reverend W. Awdry (1911-1997)

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