Cambridge Edition February 2019

LOCAL L I F E

YOU CAN’ T HAVE MISSED THE COWS STROLLING THROUGH OUR CITY’S GREEN SPACES. CHARLOTTE GRIFFITHS MEETS CAMBRIDGE’S MOST FAMOUS FOUR-LEGGED RESIDENTS TILL THE COWS COME HOME

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PHOTOS BY CLAIRE VOYLE

ambridge is undeniably a city with green space at its heart. The Botanic Gardens cover 40 acres, Parker’s Piece a further 25, and

of land at the end of Silver Street where the colleges’ washing used to be done, and that now welcomes the majority of our city in the summer months for picnics and drinks on balmy evenings, is described as being able to hold “a total of two beasts... all the year on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays from sunset to sunrise”, while Empty Common, a sliver of land stretching off Brooklands Avenue – now home to a thriving and beautiful community garden – could host up to five “mares, geldings and cows”. In 1985, the Cambridge City Council Act revised the council’s rights to determine where, when and how many animals were grazed: the current application form for those looking to raise livestock within the city gives the options of Coe Fen, Coldham’s Common, Midsummer Common, Sheep’s Green, and Stourbridge Common. The council also employs a dedicated ‘pinder’ (or ‘pindar), an individual who, historically, would ‘pin’ loose cattle in place, and now keeps a watchful eye on our city’s bovine residents. The ‘armadillo’ public restrooms on Midsummer Common, designed by local architects Freeland Rees Roberts, even had to include a dedicated storeroom for the pinder, where they can keep cattle feed and necessary equipment. Several individual farmers now make use of the pinder’s services and exercise their grazing rights, paying £60.98 per animal or £38.44 per animal for herds of ten or more – and that’s why you’ll spot a variety of different breeds as you make your way across the city. u

visitors often remark on the beauty of the college gardens, carefully

tended to provide displays of seasonal colour that break up the urban sprawl. Yet it’s the narrow slivers of wild common land reaching right into the heart of Cambridge that provide the strongest sense of our Fenland setting – in part, the reason our city looks the way it does today is thanks to generations of farmers who’ve chosen to exercise their right to graze livestock on those common spaces. Just 3% of land in England is registered as commons: the majority lies in the north of the country, but small pockets can be found dotted across the landscape, with several right in the heart of our city. This isn’t public land, but rather spaces that are owned by the Council, the Colleges or corporations, and on which we – as residents and landowners – can exercise several ancient rights, including one to pasture: to graze and keep specified animals without needing land of our own. The Commons Registration Act 1965 gives evocative descriptions of our city’s grazing grounds. Laundress Green, the small parcel

“Empty Common could host up to five ‘mares, geldings and cows’”

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F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 9

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