Phones off, sun hats on, this weekend it’s time to head into the great outdoors known as the English countryside. There’s something very British about taking a stroll through our bucolic verdant fields. It helps us relax and get back to nature, away from the stress of digital life.
Hopping over stiles and following the secret and forgotten pathways following only the well-worn wooden signposts proclaiming “public footpath” evokes our adventurers’ spirit and makes us feel like we can take on the world.
That is, until we run into one of the countryside’s cutest hazards: a field with cows or sheep in it. At which point, our gumption and bravery evaporate quicker than a white wine spill on the picnic blanket as we turn to each other and hesitantly ask “sheep aren’t dangerous, are they?”
“No, of course not”, our rambling companion replies, trying to reassure themselves as much as us, “you go first though”, they offer cordially.
Of course, sheep and cows aren’t usually a problem (we’ll get on to bulls later) but there are always risks, and a little caution goes a long way in avoiding wilderness woes.
Commonsense while walking in the countryside
“Shut the gate”, we’ve all read it on walks through the country, and it’s an important one to pay attention to, but you’d be surprised how many farmers complain about gates being left open - and for good reason. So, as a quick refresher, here are a few more general tips to make sure walking in the country stays safe for you, those around you and of course, the animals.
Walking with your dog near animals
If you’re taking your four-legged friend with you on your rambling, there are a few more things to bear in mind.
If you encounter cows in a field
Gentle giants standing in the field enjoying the grass, cows are generally no threat to anyone and won’t bother you as long as you leave them alone. But just in case, here are a few tips from our resident ruminants experts.
Meeting sheep in the field
Yes, they are generally (almost always) fluffy clouds of cuteness on legs, but very occasionally you might feel threatened by a sheep. Don’t worry, if you do, we’re here to help (and we won’t tell anyone. we promise. Your secret is safe with us).
A fallen sheep!
From time to time sheep can fall on their backs and, like a giant white fluffy tortoise, find it impossible to get back up. This mainly happens in lambing season when they are pregnant and are carrying a thick fleece. A sheep on its back can potentially die if left unassisted.
First of all, try and find a farmer to inform them of what has happened. However, if no farmer can be found, and you feel confident, then you could approach the sheep calmly and gently to roll it back onto its feet. This is the only time when you should intentionally approach a sheep. Be sure to wait around a few minutes afterwards to make sure she’s found her feet and can be on her way again.
Sheep can also become stuck in bramble hedges and fences. They get trapped in them and are unable to free themselves. Sometimes, your presence may be sufficient incentive for them to get themselves free, but if for some reason you can’t help, be sure to let the farmer know so he can take care of them.
Always be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after touching sheep or any livestock.
What to do if you see a bull
Mature bulls can be quite scary looking, but they are typically very friendly animals. There’s one (make that two) very clear way to tell if it’s a bull or a cow, so if you’re unsure, take a look.
Hopefully, your weekend wanders through the wonders of the British countryside will be free of bovine bullies and unwanted rumbles with ruminants. And if you are taking a picnic with you, make sure you buy RSPCA Assured labelled products to make it a higher welfare feast.