Wednesday, 29 June 2011

counting the goats

The goats have arrived in the Avon Gorge. So we went to see them.

First, though, we did a little detour to my favourite cave, at Burwalls, just over the Clifton Suspension Bridge. Mal was impressed. She knew someone who used to live in a cave, and wondered if this was the one. "He got flooded out. He came round, all muddy."

"Maybe it was one on the other side," I said. "There are some quite shallow caves over there. This one is pretty sheltered."

She phoned him to find out, but only got an answering machine. The wonders of technology. You can phone someone from a cave, but that doesn't mean they'll answer you.

Climbing through the woods again, a fox sauntered past. It gave Mal an indifferent glance as it passed.

When we emerged onto the grass above, the fox was there again. This time, Pig saw the fox. The fox saw pig. It took a moment for their atavism to kick in. Then they were off! -crashing through the undergrowth, immediately out of sight and the noise of the chase rapidly receding.

"Pig! Pig!" we called, preparing to mount a rescue mission. Pig once had to be saved from rocky death by abseiling coastguards, down in Devon, after she took an ill-advised turn down a cliff. And the Avon Gorge is pretty cliffy.

Pig trotted out of the trees, perky as you like.

Pig, in relaxed mood

"Maybe Pig should go on the lead", we agreed, when we came to the goat enclosure in Walcombe Slade.

Scrambling around the edge of the gully, we saw three big white goat-ish things, sunbathing on an outcrop across the way. Very placid they looked.

The goats are feral, and came from Great Orme, near Llandudno. There are six males, and they've been neutered, which apparently renders them less likely to go wandering off.

A while ago, I'd suggested that the goats, being welsh, should be greeted bardically, with poetry and song. The Avon Gorge and Downs Wildlife folk thought that this might be a bit upsetting for the goats. So here is a small verse for the occasion. Quietly, now.

Mellifluously bleating, fleet of hoof,
Vertiginous in choice of your abode;
Be you aged billy, white-fleeced yoof,
Welcome to Bristol, anyroad.

And here's a traditional song to help you count goats.


  1. A good solution to maintaining such difficult terrain.

    I have never seen the attraction to keeping goats myself. It dates from my 1970s Good Life upbringing, the goaty smallholders were always the weird ones.

    Our mutt has an annoing habit of taking off after muntjac deer. It's the equivalent of a kid on a Honda Melody chasing a Fireblade, but it doesn't stop her getting thoroughly lost at times.

  2. The last time I tried to go to Burwalls I was shouted at from the windows of the house. :-(

    Goats look well at home. I like the idea of a northern voice welcoming Welsh goats to our really-not-that-arsed-about-multiculturalism west country city.

  3. Shouldn't you have translated that? Do they speak English?

  4. My now deceased cat and I once had a similar encounter with a fox, and just like Pig, Freddy took off after the fox as he turned tail and ran. Freddy was just a little orange tabby, but he had visions of grandeur. I think he envisioned himself a small tiger.

    Like the poem!

    Melissa XX

  5. The one I always remember is driving out to my cottage and seeing a young kitten stalking something round the side of a barn. Looked around it to see a deeply unamused full-grown stork.

  6. My lurcher took off after a roe deer in the Teign valley once, Jenny; took aaages to hunt him down. And he was covered in blood. His own, as it turned out....

    What a curmudgeon, Deborah. Burwalls is, or should be, the People's Cave.

    I'm pretty sure these goats are monoglot, Anne. And a bit taciturn, too.

    Melissa, it's funny, that exchange of glances between animals when they meet, to work out who is going to be the hunter and who the hunted.

    That could have ended nastily for the kitten, I should have thought, Sophie. I guess it didn't, though?