This week, Natural England suggested I talk to the expert on Kendal Race Course. So I did.
Brian Bowness was grazier here for seventeen years. Until very recently, we enjoyed the sense of pastoral his ewes and lambs gave in spring. Out in all weathers, every day, he explains not the theory but what actually happens here. Is our concern well-founded?
I made a transcript of our conversation. No to cattle, in a word. He describes the behaviour I watched last week. Cattle will congregate at the four gates: access points. And they’ll gather by the footpaths. They’ll puddle the ground. Cattle pose a risk. Bullocks are downright dangerous to walkers with dogs. So no, unequivocally no to cattle – let alone bullocks.
Locals reiterate what he is saying. ‘ I find them menacing, ‘ says Anne. 'Totally wrong. They spoil everyones enjoyment.’
The Natural England objective of encouraging us to enjoy the open air is contravened- what’s happening is the opposite. We are discouraged, deterred, home again balked of a walk on Scout Scar. It is disrupting the pattern of how we keep fit and take exercise, how we engage with the countryside and its wildlife.
Mary tells me there’s no way her daughter will run here again. So she ran the Brigsteer Road instead. So much for access to the countryside. ( full names and addresses on the petition I compile.)
So where is Kendal Race Course, I was asked at a talk I gave last night.
Walk from Kendal up the Brigsteer Road until you reach a cattle grid and a track to Bradleyfield Farm. A little further on is a milestone and a stile. The two access points onto Kendal Race Course, bisected by two public footpaths to Scout Scar. The Kendal Race Course footpaths are in frequent use. One passes close to Bradleyfield Farm but if anyone gets into difficulty with the bullocks there will be no farmer to come to their rescue, no-one. It isn't a working farm. As a lone walker you'd be alone with cattle and Brian Bowness doesn't recommend it.
Simply, Natural England hasn't thought this through. There has been no consideration of the immediate impact this has on the daily lives of locals who walk here bound for Scout Scar. I have every intention of going to the Mushroom Shelter seeking more signatures for the petition. The September rains are not encouraging but even more discouraging is the prospect of somehow having to walk through those bullocks to get there!
So a friend will drive us to Helsington Church, then to Scout Scar. We drive to alternative locations, instead of walking, as we would wish. Surely more traffic on country roads isn't an acceptable outcome.