The First Rule of Gates

Never leave them open.

Not even for twenty minutes when you pop out to the shop.

Never mind that you lived without gates for a year or two without any trouble, or that you could leave them open for the next year and nothing untoward would happen.

The front turf is deeply dimpled. The flowerbeds trampled. A wallflower leans sadly, while a small campanula nearby is uprooted and a branch hangs broken from one of the roses. Mud leads around the side of the house, and the newly emerging grass in the back wears tracks across it and back again. I haven’t dared investigate the back borders too closely in case we have lost any plants; there are certainly a few holes in the unplanted area. I feel utterly dismayed, and very cross with myself.

They must have moved the cows while I was out and the gates stood open. Never again.


22 thoughts on “The First Rule of Gates

    • I am still mortified. After lunch I steeled myself to take a closer look, and though there are two-three inch deep holes all over the youngest border I think we’ve been really lucky with the plants there. Looks like many of the holes are just touching young plants – missing squashing them by a millimetre. Must be one heck of a lucky cow. We’re going to have a lumpy lawn now though…

  1. Wow I whinge about my neighbours’ cats but cows, that really is a problem. I know how soul-destroying it is when you’ve planted up new plants to go out and find the cats have dug them out, so I sympathise. At least they didn’t leave any cow pats.

    • Ha, cats have certainly got nothing on cows. I couldn’t believe it. So much damage in such a short space of time. Bull in a china shop – cow in a garden – not much to choose between them!

  2. You have my sympathy. I have never had a cow in my garden, but I know only too well what damage a fox can do in mine, so I can imagine the dismay you must have experienced when you saw this. I hope they don’t have any elephants in Wales…

    • I sympathise. We are lucky really that this is a freak incident, and one that we can avoid in future by always leaping out of the car to shut the gates, even if just popping out locally.
      Not that any of our neighbours’ gates were closed either, and the farmers are usually really good at shutting our gates if necessary before moving cows past, so in those terms we were particularly unlucky today.

  3. Boo hoo 😦

    This reminds me of when we used to go and stay with my aunt and uncle in Swansea for the summer holidays when I was little. Their house bordered on common land and there was always a night time cow invasion of the garden at some point.

    To a 4 year old it was a big adventure to wake up and find cows underneath her bedroom window!

    • Eep, your comment had been marked as spam and swallowed up for some reason – hopefully it won’t happen again!
      Wow, did your aunt and uncle not mind having their garden trampled so regularly? One invasion and some nibbled/pulled out hedges is enough for me!

  4. Oh no! How upsetting! 😦 I’m another one hasn’t had cows in the garden herself, but we do get deer who like to come for a good munch… Hope the back borders are ok!

    • The borders have come through remarkably unscathed! Somehow the cow’s hooves just tickled against most of the plants, there only appears to be one direct hit, and that’s a lavender in the front bed.

  5. Ouch! Margaret’s cows got out onto the Priory drive once; pulled up a climbing hydrangea, pulled most of a wisteria off a wall and trampled across areas of mown grass. The thought of them getting into the actual gardens stops my heart. I hesitate to say this, but it sounds like you got off quite lightly?!? (Easy for me to say, mind).


    • It could have been a lot worse, it’s true, they could have dug up all the plants whereas we seem to have most still intact. But the damage to the grass is worse than the pictures do justice – the holes are a couple of inches deep, and there are a lot of them sunk through the new turf. We’ll have to patch each one or we’ll keep catching our toes in the craters to fall flat on our faces. After all those hours with a scaffolding board levelling the area by hand…

  6. oh Sara I do feel for you, I’ve never had cows but sheep was one reason I moved from Scalpay, it’s possible it was a young cow/calf as I know lambs do more damage in a moment that several ewes in an hour! young amimals like young children or kittens including calfs and lambs are curious so explore, try plants they wouldn’t touch as adults (hence the pulling up) and run like mad when being round up, of course it may have happened other times when you were out but was not noticeable as the soil would have been firm, creating the new lawn you have dug and so softened the soil, you’ll never not close the gates again, Frances

    • Thanks Frances, I was very unsettled by the damage done yesterday, but I’m coming to terms with it today, especially as we seem to have got off lightly indeed when you think what we could have lost… I think it was just one of those things. When the cows are in the field they pass along the road daily for milking, escorted by several farm hands who try and keep them in line, and we’ve never known them come in before, even when we had no front fence or gates. One just took a fancy to our open gates yesterday and ricocheted around a lot, in panic no doubt. We compacted the ground well for both lawns, but in truth it is still very soft for such a heavy animal! We haven’t had a closed gate policy to date, seeing them as a nice-to-have rather than essential, but for the time being they are staying firmly closed whenever possible! Horse … bolted … stable *sigh*

  7. I remember cows coming into our front garden in Orkney. We had to clear loads of enormous cowpats. And another time I found a sheep asleep at the front door. You would have thought someone might have missed it.. We never had a gate as it seemed kinda of unwelcoming in a friendly place.
    But I think I would keep it firmly shut in your case! I hope you can get it looking good again.

    • I must say I prefer it when we have sheep in the field; they don’t eat/rip out our new hedges or damage our garden. The cows have now done both, two black ticks against them now… We’ll see what magic we can work in the next few days.

  8. Oh that’s heartbreaking. My poor Mum always has various animals trampling her garden (most recently pigs) when someone (usually my brother) leaves the side gate open but at least they are our own animals! Roast beef, that’s what I say 😉 Bethx

    • Thanks Beth. We are filling in the holes with compost, and hope that by the time spring comes, the grass will have knitted over and concealed the damage! At least the plants seem to have come through surprisingly unscathed. And we had roast beef for dinner yesterday :-)/

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