Only as a brief postscript, it’s worth including this photograph of the vegetation on the hill where the cattle have been. In forty years without grazing, this purple moor grass had grown into a maze of deep and heavy tussocks. Each summer, new leaves would rise up and fall down uneaten to build a mat of old growth which turned white in the first winter and grey as it mouldered away. Purple moor grass is famously invasive. Nothing else can live where it prevails. But the cows have smashed that routine to smithereens, and the result is a pleasure to see.
When it comes up now, the new grass is munched away and the ribbons are severed to square-ends. The old carpet of dead vegetation has been trampled into ruin and it’s become possible to see the individual tussock-heads exposed. If you run your fingers through these shaggy tumps, the new grass feels like the bristles on an old man’s wart – but the cows don’t seem to mind the coarse grass and they do fine eating it. Some of the tussocks have been kicked to bits and several have snapped off and rolled away under the heavy cattle hooves. In the gaps and between the tussock-heads elsewhere, tormentil and bedstraw has begun to rise. Bracken which used to stand proud above the better bits has been battered back into submission. The first stems were trampled and the auxiliary second shoots seem stunted and anxious in their wake.
And all the while, the whole salad bowl has been sprayed with cowpats. When you lie face down in the grass as I did today, you can hear the undergrowth crackling with insects. It’s a sign of the change that I even thought to lie down and try it at all. In previous years, I’ve been too worried by the challenge of standing up and falling down in the deep grass and getting covered in ticks to even dream of lying on this hill.