I had read about the Wild Cattle in Chillingham Park many years ago, and knew the beautiful engraving The Chillingham Bull by Thomas Bewick, so a visit in hopes of catching a glimpse of them was high on my list.
Checking up it seemed that there could be a lot of walking involved, and over rough and boggy terrain at that, so I wondered if I was up to it. I checked with Chillingham Castle first who thought it unlikely I would manage, and also told me the cattle were no longer part of the estate, so a bit of googling found me the name of the warden in charge of the herd.
He was out when I phoned but very kindly came back to me about my answer phone message. No, it would not be possible to reach the hemmell (open sided byre) where the tour started, let alone travel round the three hundred acre hilly, boggy, heavily wooded enclosure. To even reach the hemmel involved a long, steep, uphill rutted gravel track, followed by a long steep downhill crossing of a meadow, and over a stream via a two planked foot-bridge, then through a boggy field. After all that the the tour of the three hundred acre park in search of the herd started !!!
Still, I thought I would go to the Castle, then maybe if I was lucky I would see them in the grounds on the way there.
The caravan site I had stayed at the previous evening was less that a couple of miles away so I arrived even before the castle had opened its huge wrought iron park gates, which was fortunate, because Thebus fitted through them with only an inch or two to spare on either side, and I wouldn’t have dared going through on my own, as until I had passed through I wasnt really sure if we would fit or not, and it was the kind gate opener who saw me through.
There is a magnificent long avenue as the approach to the castle and in the field to one side two mettlesome hunters were grazing, who thought a race with Thebus would be great, and they accompanied us all the way, though I think they could have gone faster had they wanted. The carpark we headed to was cut out of a huge wooded area, so I had no qualms about leaving Phoebe in such a shaded and secluded spot, and getting out the scooter headed for the castle
The estate had been sold off in the earlier part of the last century, the castle contents scattered to the four corners, and the castle itself abandoned and left to moulder and decay. But some years later one of the daughters of the line and her husband bought it back, moved in and have spent their lives restoring it and filling it with the quirky and the unusual.
On entering and paying for my ticket I enquired again about the Chillingham Cattle. It seems the emparked area which was home to the Chillingham Herd was parted from the castle in the earlier auction, but the castle still had an association with the trustees of the herd, and you could buy a combined ticket to see both the castle and the cattle. I had already asked the lady if it was likely I might glimpse them in the park but apparently their enclosure was quite a distance away from the castle grounds and it was impossible to see the Chillingham Cattle apart from taking the tour. As the cost of the two tickets was not all that much more than just the castle I bought both and thought I would see how the day panned out.
The castle itself is just my kind of castle, photos were allowed, there was a lovely garden, all the staff were friendly and helpful, and it was all low key, rather like visiting these sort of places thirty or forty years ago before money became the over weening force it now is.