The steaks were high when the London Fire Brigade got an e-moo-gency call-out on Sunday morning to avoid udder chaos on Farthing Downs.
One of the herd of Sussex cattle that are part of an ecology project on the Downs, near Coulsdon, had fallen into a ditch on Ditches Lane and needed rescuing.
Station Commander Matt Leaver, who was at the scene, said: “Crews worked swiftly to rescue a pregnant cow who was stuck on her side in a ditch.
“Working with a local vet, we used large animal rescue equipment, including ropes, strops and slings, to help the cow get back on her feet safely.”
A fire engine from Wallington and a specialist rescue unit from Lewisham attended the scene.
“She was checked over by the vet and thankfully, both mother and her unborn calf – who is due in January – were OK,” Leaver said.
“We would always encourage people to call the RSPCA in the first instance if they see an animal stuck or in distress. Firefighters love animals too and we are always happy to assist if our specialist equipment is required, as in this case.”
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Massive thanks to the London Fire and Rescue teams. It can’t be often that a rescue crew from Lewisham is called out to rescue a cow ! (pregnant or otherwise !)
The ditches along the edge of the road– called Ditches Lane probably several hundred years ago– were excavated just 2 or 3 years ago, to stop people parking on the roadside, and driving on to the downs.
It’s a shame that some people were not respecting the integrity of the environment.
The good news is that most people do, and use the car park.
One of the great things about Farthing Downs and its twin, the Happy Valley, is the fact that people of all ages and ethnic heritages come out by car or bus, or even walk all the way, and enjoy the wonderful countryside, the views, the wild flowers, the open skies, wildflife, jogging, walking, meeting friends, kite flying, playing frisbee, footie, even playing the guitar— and–seeing the lovely russet Sussex Cattle, a fairly “rare breed” which are so placid, and true “gentle giants”. They move gradually across the downs every day (and night too) grazing and resting a bit like a slow moving, grass-chomping tide. They are all equipped with reflective ankle bands, which show up in the headlights of the cars that go along Diches Lane after dusk.
There is a 20 mph speed limit, which is probably not respected by all, but at least it marks out the lane as a place to drive slowly.
There are so many other wonderful things about this precious area of landscape….. the co-operation between the two land owners–City of London and Croydon Council…..the hard working Friends group…… the friendly and very hard working Warden employed by Croydon Council, and staff of the city of London Commons who (I think) manage the cattle and sheep…. Conservation volunteers who carry out habitat management…. and no doubt, many other caring people.
Croydon is blessed to have this fantastic landscape– now a National Nature Reserve as well as Green Belt and Public Open Space– in public ownership, open free to all.
The Red Sussex cattle add life and feel of tradition, and a living connection with rural life, and our local rural heritage before suburbanisation.
I do hope that the rescued cow’s calf is born safely, and enjoys a calm happy life, grazing the herb-scented and wild-flower studded pastures of the Downs for many years, and maybe having its own baby, some years in the future!
Thanks Inside Croydon for printing this good news article, much needed at this time of Lockdown and Croydon Council problems, and indeed, for other recent articles about the Downs and Happy Valley.