Farm walk- tips for staying safe.

I’ve recently joined a few blogger groups on social media, ones that are full of outdoorsy types rather than fashionistas and make up artists. One of the threads the other day caught my eye. It was about going walking in the countryside when you’ve got bovinophobia- a(n irrational) fear of cows. Initially I thought it was a bit daft. How can anyone be  that terrified of cows? Then the replies trickled in…one poster after another admitting that they too really don’t like walking through cows. Some people offered advice, most of it sound and sensible. The odd suggestion was a bit odd, and potentially dangerous. I’ve come up with some advice of my own on how to stay safe when walking on farm land.

Plan your route and stick to it-Lots of working farms have public rights of way through them. These routes may be through grazing fields , across land used for growing crops or even through a busy farmyard. Farmers have a responsibility to make sure the area directly around a right of way or public footpath is safe. Stick to the marked route. If you go off the beaten track you could end up putting yourself in harms way.

Here come the girls #milkingtime #teamdairy #farminglife #farmfamily #wales

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Leave it alone- Farmers often leave machinery in fields where they are working, or on the farmyard. Don’t touch it! Even if they aren’t switched on, tractors and other bits of farm kit are dangerous. The same rule applies to animals. If you see an animal that you think is ill or in distress, its best to try and let the farmer or land owner know.

Read the signs- Signs are put up for a reason. Quite commonly they will be used to alert you to the presence of a bull in a field, something which I personally prefer to know about before getting any where near him (I don’t like bulls. Not one bit) . Sometimes they will also let you know if there are lambing ewes present or if the field has recently been sprayed. In these cases, you might want to take a detour.

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Animal encounters- Try and be aware of what livestock are in a field before you enter it. Although they may look cute and fluffy, cows, sheep and even horses can be dangerous and can  kill people. As a general rule, leave them alone and they’ll leave you alone. Most farm animals will be used to seeing people, especially if the route you are on is popular with walkers. Give them a wide berth- go round, rather than through a herd or flock.

If you spot calves in a field , be aware that any cows with calves at foot will be more wary and protective of their offspring.  The mothers may stop and turn to watch you, but generally they will leave you be unless they feel you are threatening them (ie coming too close) Never put yourself between a cow and calf. If you have a dog with you, they may be even more interested and alert.

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Sometimes groups of cows (usually bullocks or heifers) may run towards you. Although it might look like it, it isn’t a stampede as such- they are most likely  just being playful and nosy. Try and stay calm, and walk quickly and quietly through the field. This is easier said than done. I recently got caught out taking the mini farmers on a walk to a local castle, located in a farmers field. We made it to the castle uneventfully, it was only when I turned round to go back I realised we weren’t alone- at least 10 young bullocks were ambling towards us.I managed to carry /drag the kids and buggy across the field, all the while being followed by these hooligans. They gambolled along, snorting and skipping, really looking like they were enjoying themselves.  That situation could have been a lot worse. Playful calves don’t sound too scary until you realise that each of them weigh half a tonne.

 

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Group of bullocks grazing.

I would also recommend carrying a stick when walking amongst cows. If you do find yourself surrounded by inquisitive animals it can be used to gently nudge them out of the way. Its also good for making yourself look bigger (and feel braver) if you do get charged by cows.

One woman and her dog–  You can never be 100% sure how dogs will behave around farm animals, so adopt a ‘safe rather than sorry’ approach and put them on a lead. Sheep chased by dogs can miscarry their lambs, suffer from shock and die. Worst case scenario, a dog may attack and savage a sheep. Keep them on a lead to make sure you keep control. Even if you think they are the best, most well behaved canine that ever walked the planet. A farmer can and will shoot any dog that they feel poses a risk to their stock.

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Keeping your pet on a leash will also help protect lapwings and other ground nesting birds. Their nests and eggs lie amongst the grass, which can be disturbed and destroyed by dogs.

The only time you should let go of the lead is if you are challenged by cows. In this instance, your pet will be better able to protect themselves if they are off the lead, and you are  at risk of  sustaining life threatening injuries if you try to hold onto them.

These are just a few pointers, for more in depth advice check out the Countryside code.

 

 

 

 

 

Zoo mania

Ever get that feeling that you just want to get in the car and drive?¬†Destination decided,¬†money in your pocket¬†, gas in the tank and off you go.¬† I don’t get that feeling often these days, having two toddlers and a full time job¬†has sort of¬†reduced my¬†desire to roam . Sometimes I still yearn to get out of¬†Pembrokeshire and head¬†to a city.¬†Last week, I gave in to the wander lust, and rather spontaneously took the mini farmers to Bristol Zoo.


I have become a master at the art of¬†preparing for ‘family days out’ ,¬†having honed my technique over the past three years.¬†In under an hour we were breakfasted, dressed and¬†in the car¬† along with a picnic, things for the journey and spare clothes…as well as the potty, wrap and buggy.¬†I even managed to charge my phone and check that the camera actually had an sd card in before chucking it into the boot.¬†¬†Parenting level up!

 

I love Bristol zoo. I love most zoos that I have visited in the UK, but Bristol zoo holds a special place as I have spent time here on a work experience placement. 3 happy weeks of helping to x ray tortoises, post mortems on crocodiles, anaesthetising macaques and carrying out health checks on endless Roul Rouls.

 

The 130 or so miles (yes, this was a long distance road trip)¬†from the farm to Bristol zoo passed fairly smoothly- no poonamis, tantrums or vom sessions from the back seats, and only half an hour of ‘are we nearly there yet’, which ¬†I count¬† as a win.

The zoo is easy to find, and has plenty of parking on site. If your lucky you can find a free spot in one of the side streets, but I couldn’t be bothered hauling all the kids gear any further than I absolutely had to.¬† ¬£3 for all day safe and secure parking seemed reasonable (even cheaper if you are a member).

We weren’t particularly early (12pm) but there was no queue for tickets- the first time this has ever happened to me! This is one of the reasons I love coming to places out of season. Another benefit is actually being able to see the animals.DSC_0627.jpg

The lions were out in their enclosure, sprawling lazily in the weak January sunlight. The mini farmers managed to get up close to the glass for a really good look- normally if one is in the buggy they end up with a fab view of the back of peoples knees.


Next up – Twilight zone. A bit of a struggle to get through the doors single handedly with the buggy, but once in we were fine. This series of enclosures has recently undergone a major overhaul, and it shows. After a bit of squinting (and¬†staggering about myopically in my case)¬†our eyes adjusted to the dusky light levels,¬†¬†we managed to see nearly all of the nocturnal inhabitants of this wonderful world. Quolls¬†dashed about amongst the leaf litter, living up to their ‘tiger cat’ nickname.The desert cats prowled in their territory,¬†pouncing on invisible prey. My favourites the aye aye clambered about in their shaky, alien limbed fashion.¬†
I love this area of the zoo and could quite easily have spent several hours in their, watching a secret, normally unseen world unfold behind the glass. C had other ideas ‘come on mum’ she said, disappearing out into the daylight ‘ my tummy is rumbling’. Guess it must be lunch time then?!


I’m glad I bothered to make a packed lunch. Food at the zoo is pricey, and not that exciting to boot. There are vending machines dotted about too, but they are also ¬£¬£¬£.¬†It will be interesting to see if this changes when the new zoo restaurant is up and running.
After lunch we headed for gorilla island, via Monkey Jungle. Jojo loved Monkey jungle, as did C, proudly exclaiming about the Lemurs ‘That’s not a monkey, you know Mummy, that’s a lemur.’ DSC_0641.jpg

We got to the Gorillas just in time to see them having lunch. I don’t like to anthropomorphise, but seriously its hard not to with Gorillas. Jock, the silver back, sat directly opposite where the keepers were lobbing fruit and veg from. One of the cheeky younger family members snuck up and stole a carrot-I swear¬†Dad Jock rolled his eyes at him or her!

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I am also amazed at the story of Amina, the troops youngest member, who was born by C Section. Her birth mum had developed a condition similar to Pre eclampsia during late pregnancy, resulting in an emergency op involving human doctors as well as vets.  If you look closely, you can spot her clinging on to her adoptive mums arm.

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The zoo is exceptionally family friendly-accessible with a buggy, although I did bring out the wrap on occasion. There are lots of activities to engage children with, from interactive signs


To fun games

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And silly selfie props. We had to stop at every one once C had realised what they were!


The outdoor playground packs a lot into a little space. It was the mini farmers favourite. Typical. I drive 100 odd miles and all they want is the play park.

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If you come in the summer, the water play area is amazing- don’t forget a swimming costume or a change of clothes plus a towel! There’s also an indoor activity centre, with crafts, colouring in, lucky dip and face painting for the over threes. C was turned into a butterfly, whilst JoJo explored an old haul from customs and excise, now turned into an educational display.

 

To escape the cold we nipped into the butterfly house. C wanted to look at the chrysalis¬†whilst JoJo was mesmerised by the butterflies as they flitted about. I was a bit too…standing with head back and mouth open kind of mesmerised. Not a good look.

 


We then headed back along through the fruit bat enclosure, stopping briefly to check out the Giant tortoises. These creatures are magnificient. Every time I pass here, I remember the day I got to go inside the enclosure on work experience. One of the tortoise, who is most likely still a resident, ambled over to me and pushed his head under my hand, encouraging me to pet him. The keeper remarked ‘yeah, he’s really just an overgrown, shelly labrador’!

 

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C checking out the giant, shelled Labradors.

 

By this point we had probably seen about two thirds of the exhibits, but the girls were starting to show signs of tiredness. We quickly made our way through the reptile house, which we had somehow managed to time just right. The crocodiles were being fed…not as dramatic as¬†it sounds, and pretty neat to watch.

 

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Feeding time at the zoo. Literally.

Time to exit through the gift shop. I said each of them could have one thing. C made a beeline for a 3ft neon pink flamingo, claiming it to be the thing she really, really wanted. Somehow I managed to talk her down to having a pair of 30cm high macaws. JoJo got a Melissa and Doug jigsaw. We said our good byes for another day and started on our long journey home. Bristol zoo, we love you!