‘I accepted my fate’ – Cattle charge walkers on footpath near Hitchin

Preston cattle

Preston cattle - Credit: Archant

A walker has told the Comet she was “ready to accept her fate” when a herd of cattle charged towards her.

Jenny Mason, who lives in Whitwell near Hitchin, was out walking with a group of friends and her two dogs on a public footpath on Monday when a herd of Aberdeen-Angus cattle launched towards them.

The incident happened at the junction of Hitchwood Lane and School Lane in Preston, near to Princess Helena College.

“We know the area well and often walk the path to go to The Red Lion pub in Preston,” said Mrs Mason.

“The herd came charging towards us and it was obvious that someone was going to get seriously hurt if we didn’t move, but you almost freeze in that moment. It was quite frighting.”

Mrs Mason, who has some experience in dealing with cattle, told the rest of the group to walk slowly away from the herd while she picked up her dogs and backed up to a tree.

“As soon as I did that the herd stopped about 6ft away from me,” she said. “I didn’t think I would get out of it and I peacefully accepted my fate.

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“One of us could have been trampled over and badly hurt but I managed to walk around the tree and get away with the dogs while the cows began to graze on the land.”

Mrs Mason said that she would not use the footpath again until it was safe to do so.

The land is owned by Princess Helena College, which tender it out to a farmer in the area.

A spokesman for the farmer said: “Farmers take great pride in their work, their stock and their land and we all realise we owe a duty of care towards visitors on our land, and we take this very seriously.

“While we do not know the full background to this incident, it is important to note that like all animals, cattle are inquisitive creatures and are curious in their nature, especially if a dog is involved.

“Their natural reaction to a person or dog running away from them is to follow and this can be mistaken as an act of aggression. We strongly advise that people take note of Natural England’s countryside code which gives clear guidance on how best to get the most out of our beautiful countryside responsibly and safely.”

A spokesman for Hertfordshire County Council, which is responsible for mainting rights of way in the county, said: “We are concerned to hear of this incident near one of our rights of way and would encourage the people involved to contact us directly. Landowners are obliged to ensure the safety of the public when using these public highways and there are restrictions on some animals being kept in fields which are crossed by a footpath. However, in most circumstances, cattle would not be classed as dangerous. We would advice people using paths which cross fields containing animals to always exercise caution, especially if they have dogs with them.”