One of the farmers is Angelika von Heimendahl, local veterinary surgeon and owner of around 65 Red Poll cattle, which you’ll normally be able to find grazing on Grantchester Meadows and across Midsummer Common. “Red Poll are the local breed,” she explains. “They’re from East Anglia, they grow well on grass, and they have a good temperament – plus they’re also a little smaller compared to other breeds. When you have that many people encountering the cattle, and cyclists and so on, smaller is probably not a bad idea.” The winter months see the cows turned out of the common land (Angelika’s are currently in what she laughingly refers to as “bed and breakfast” near Royston) not because it’s too cold, but because the cows would swiftly turn any field to mud in wintery conditions. They’ll return to Cambridge’s green spaces on 1 April, all set to eat their fill until the commons close up again on 1 November, just a few days before the city’s annual bonfire. “We have a big group of cattle on Grantchester Meadows, and we keep our older cattle on Midsummer Common and then replenish from Grantchester. Two or three go every month for the farmers’ market – they’re between 27 months and 30 months old. People say, ‘do you not get attached to them – do you find it hard when they go?’ And I say no, it’s strange – you get to the stage where you feel they’re ready. I see them as a herd: I love going to count them, and look at them, but I don’t get attached to individuals.” Having wanted to keep cattle her whole life but lacking the land on which to do so, Angelika was finally inspired by the lull in common grazing in Cambridge following 2001’s outbreak of foot and mouth disease. “I was talking to someone from the Friends of Midsummer Common who mentioned that they didn’t have livestock on the common at the time, and that it was starting to lose its character as a meadow – and I remember thinking that I should do something.” Increased regulation following 2001 means keeping cattle is not a wise career path for disorganised individuals. “Each head of cattle now has a passport, two eartag numbers, and you have to register movement within two days, you’re constantly inspected… the amount of attention is amazing. A calf has to be registered with British Cattle Movement within four weeks; a human baby gets six weeks. Basically, if you’re ever lonely, buy yourself a cow...” she laughs.
Dry-aged for three weeks before arriving at the markets, the beef from CamCattle’s Red Poll is marbled, but doesn’t carry much fat on the outside, meaning the meat makes an excellent all-rounder that offers something for every type of cook. “We have quite a few continental European customers on the market who ask for different cuts, and our butcher loves that,” Angelika says. “Some people really like steaks, some people prefer slow cooking, others like roast beef, some like brisket – maybe it’s down to your temperament. I like topside: proper roast beef, pink in the middle with horseradish and gravy.” There are a few other cities around the UK with such a visible collide between rural and urban ways of life, but not many, and the fact that – thanks to Angelika’s CamCattle – you can cycle past Cambridge’s cows and then
“Such a visible collide between rural and urban ways of life”
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C A M B S E D I T I O N . C O . U K
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