One of the things I didn’t expect when I came to live in the Cambridge, is the cattle that roam on several of the commons in the city. It shouldn’t have taken me by surprise. Apparently locals have been using common land to graze their animals since at least the 12th century.
I love the small print included in the Commons Registration Act 1965. On Laundress Green, for instance, it was acceptable to graze horses, mares, geldings or cows of St Botolph’s or St Mary-the-Less all the year on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays from sunset to sunrise (to a total of 2 beasts)!
I’ve certainly seen more than two beasts there in recent times. During the summer you can picnic on the Green in long grass next to the animals, and watch punters arrive in the Mill Pond after their trip along the lower part of the Cam. The proximity of the Mill Pub to Laundress Green only adds to the relaxed feel of the area. These ancient patches of land in the heart of the city are one of the many things I love about Cambridge.
Apparently cattle fall into the river about twice a week. Thankfully, the City Council has a team of cow handlers who can be called to the rescue. (It’s called the Pinder Service. No I don’t know why either.)
These days, Camcattle graze their Red Polls on many of Cambridge’s commons, and you can buy their beef in the Market Square every Sunday.
Midsummer Common is closest to where I live, and like most of the others, it lies next to the Cam. It has cattle too. (But not when the fireworks mentioned last time are going on!) It’s the scene of much of the action in my next crime novel, due out in January.
Cycling through Stourbridge Common on my morning commute can be quite interesting, what with herds of cows blocking the path. But there are few scenes more beautiful, when the mists rise up off the meadow, and morning sunlight catches the rippled surface of the Cam.