Driver warns of cattle encounter

Livestock grazing on Chailey Common. Pic Steve Robards SUS-140623-185324001
Livestock grazing on Chailey Common. Pic Steve Robards SUS-140623-185324001

Controversy over the grazing policy on Chailey Common has reared its head again after a motorist reported a close encounter with six or more longhorn cattle.

The driver contacted the Middy to warn other drivers of the danger after coming face to face with the large English Longhorn cattle by the road side between Haywards Heath and Lewes.

Arnie Wilson and his wife, Vivianne, were taking the picturesque route to Rottingdean when they came across the hairy beasts on Beggar’s Wood Road, betweem the A272 and the A275 at Chailey.

Arnie said: “We were quite startled, not that far out of Haywards Heath, to encounter at last half a dozen or more huge cattle with protruding long horns, grazing at the roadside.

“It’s quite a windy road and although there were warnings about cattle on the road I can quite see that before long a motorist could easy hit one of these beasts and get badly hurt or worse.

“It seems extraordinary to me that huge cattle, particularly with lance-like horns, should be allowed to graze on that road. It seems highly dangerous.”

Chailey Common is a lowland heath local nature reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest. It was recently fenced and cattle grids installed to contain animals that have been introduced to bring it back to its natural state.

English Longhorn cattle are the most recent additions to the grazing stock, with six currently grazing alongside 15 ponies and 55 sheep, but numbers vary depending on the amount of grazing available, the weather, and the area being grazed.

Mr Wilson, who lives in Haywards Heath and is a ski, travel and showbiz writer, described coming across the cattle as “quite scary” adding: “You certainly wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of one. It reminded me of almost running into bison while snowmobiling in Yellowstone National Park!”

A spokesman for East Sussex County Council, said: “The English Longhorn cattle currently grazing on Chailey Common are part of a conservation scheme to halt the encroachment of invasive trees and plants which threaten the ancient heathland. They look big and have very long horns, but are no more dangerous than any other animal grazing on the common.

“Cattle, Exmoor ponies and sheep are rotated around the common for grazing. At any one time one part of the common is livestock free. There are ponies, cattle and sheep currently on the combined commons (Memorial, Pound and Romany Ridge). They will remain there until the beginning of October. There is now no livestock on Red House or Lane End.”

Signs, like the one pictured, warn motorists ,although often vehicles cross the common without seeing any animals, a situation that means the occasions when they do encounter animals can still be surprising. There are also numerous incidents of deer being hit by cars.

The county council spokesman added: “We would urge motorists to drive carefully when they see the warning signs as animals are likely to be on or close to the road.”