An Ancient Tradition of Cattle Grazing

An Ancient Tradition of Cattle Grazing
March 5, 2020 Adrian Walters

Within our hearts we all celebrate as winter’s grip is slowly replaced by the more benign and softer days of spring even though we have experienced a very mild one. Instead, the winter was characterised by several tree-damaging storms and seemingly constant rainfall. However, lengthening days bring an uplifting light to the riverside and the blackthorn’s white pillows of blossom have been in flower fully five weeks earlier than usual.

Closer inspection of the countryside reveals of host of extraordinary colours in the spring light. Take a walk over the riverside and look at the trees. Their buds are swelling, and new leaves may just be beginning to appear. The colours, however, are very subtle. Soon the buds of the oaks will take on a mauve hue and the newly emerging leaves of poplar and willow will look lemon-yellow rather than the greens associated with summertime. When seen through the slight haze often associated with spring mornings the riverside looks beautiful after the bareness and austerity of the winter months.

With the changing seasons cattle will, in due course, begin to appear on the pastures, bringing the landscape back to life once more. The cattle thoroughly enjoy returning after five months in sheds with not a blade of fresh green grass to be had all winter. No wonder they can get a little frisky at the pleasure of being out again. Common sense suggests that they should be left alone to graze the riverside pastures as their forbears have done for very many centuries before them. Indeed, cows have been humans’ essential companions for millennia and even in England domesticated decent can be traced back 10,000 years. They have served to provide meat, milk and leather and to work as beasts of burden and as draught animals to till the fields from the dawn of agriculture in early Neolithic times. Originally, they were also the basis of wealth and currency and our own vocabulary includes words such as pecuniary, chattels, capital and fee which are all derived from words for cattle in various ancient languages.

This year the return of ‘our’ cattle will be formally celebrated on the first day of May with a ceremony to mark the beginning of the new grazing season. This will be led by the Mayor accompanied by the Freemen Macebearers and Trustees of the Sudbury Common Lands Charity.