Saturday, 04 July 2020

Sheep drowns after field gate is left open

A SHEEP drowned in a lake after escaping from a field through an open gate.

The ram was one of about 40 that are kept in an enclosure near Medmenham by farmer Tracey Betteridge, known locally as Bill, who sells her meat at markets in and around Henley through her business Chiltern Lamb.

She was contacted at 10am on Sunday by a neighbour who had spotted the entire flock roaming free in an adjacent water meadow.

By the time Miss Betteridge arrived, they had crossed a dry ditch and travelled further out into open marshland.

She tracked them through the reeds and found them by the side of a lake which two had fallen into.

She said: “The larger, older one was still trying to get out but couldn’t get a foothold. Luckily, he was close to the bank and not afraid of me so I was able to reach his neck and pull him in.

“He is a fully grown Kerry Hill and weighs more than 70kg so it’s a good job I’m not your average bird!

“A much smaller Balwen didn’t make it. I then had to walk all 40 of them across two large fields home.

“It took two hours and there was much swearing as it was all overgrown and there were nasty black ditches that would have been full of water during any other spring.

“I was supposed to be at Henley farmers’ market so God knows how much it cost me in lost sales, let alone the loss of sheep and stress. I spent the night pulling thorns out of me.”

Miss Betteridge, who lives in Nuffield and keeps flocks at several sites in the area, returned to find her gate had been left wide open.

A neighbour said he had seen a group of lost teenagers wandering around the area.

He believed they were taking part in an unsupervised expedition as part of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme.

Miss Betteridge said: “They are the only ones who could have opened the gate. The footpath is clearly marked and obvious in the field and so are 40 sheep. The gate is hard to open so the sheep can’t have just got through.

“I can’t see how they let kids loose in the countryside by themselves. How do they know what they do once they’re out of sight?”

In 2015, two of Miss Betteridge’s Shetland lambs were killed in Hambleden after an escaped dog mauled them.

A friend cornered the white Husky and locked it in a shed before alerting Miss Betteridge, who was compensated by the owner.

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