Sunday, August 04, 2013

The Bulls of the Tankervilles

On Wednesday afternoon, as reported last week, I had a thoroughly enjoyable visit to Chillingham Castle and to see the Wild Cattle. This was from a kind invite from Northumberland Tourism to press, TV, bloggers any others who work with the public to come and have a look around for ourselves, and, if we enjoyed it, to get the word out to our readers.

Well, this was my first visit in to this spot in deepest North Northumberland. Previously I had considered the Chillingham Cattle to be 'just farm animals' and a bit of a gimmick, but now after hearing their story from the very personable and learned warden, I have changed my mind.

Firstly about 20 of us spent 45 minutes on a whistle stop tour of Sir Humphry Wakefields castle renovation, where we saw an eclectic ( eccentric maybe, interesting definitely) collection of historical artefacts accumulated by generations of Sir Humphry's family, ranging from Himalayan Buddist Horn Pipes to fibre glass 'stone' fire places from the film set of 'Elizabeth' starring Cate Blanchett and on to devices of torture in a basement chamber.

This whole area reeks of history, from a time of turbulence when the Border Rievers would raid over into Northumberland.A talk in the Haunted room upstairs, didnt give away any ghostly secrets, but I wouldn't want to be here in the dark, that's for sure!

From the castle it was down to the 800 yr old parkland where a herd of 101 Chillingham cattle have remained free from the hand of man and from evolution since the park closure in the 13th century. Oringinally owned by Lord Tankerville and family, the beast, are completely untouched and are now the most inbred mammals on the planet. This is not what it seems though, there are no mutant deformed animals, the opposite in fact is true, they are disease resistant clones, originally kept for hunting and meat, now kept as a living reminder of a time when wolves and boar roamed these lands.

From a safe distance of around 40 yards they happily went about their business, pretty much like a deer herd rather than the cows we know today.

The wardens here are both excellent speakers, but the history of the cattle was the most enthralling for me. I left with a feeling that I had been privileged to meet up with the animals whose genes go back as far as the wild wood. They had a definite aura about them.

Anyway, I now feel that I can recommend a visit to locals and visitors alike. See if you get the same vibes as I did...

All in all an excellent trip out.

The formal gardens
Sir Humphry's rooms.
The Cattle
Torture Chamber  to get informnation from captured rievers)

Bull calling to another to stay away from his cows.
This bull has a new injury from fighting that may end up being his downfall...
For further information please check out - 

1. Chillingham Castle:
2. Chillingham Wild Cattle:
3. For visitor information:


Ragged Robin said...

Fascinating post Stewart. Would love to come on holiday one day to your beautiful part of the world and will certainly visit Chillingham Castle.

Stewart said...

Let me know when you do Caroline, I can give you some info on various nice spots to visit..