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 Chris Stockdale
Hilary Peters

Hilary Peters writes: On 31 March 2002, a group of us met on the burial mound of Chris Stockdale's animals, at Orcop Hill, Herefordshire, who were shot on this day last year. They were all healthy. Four cows who escaped the cull came to watch; Chris said he wanted them to know that we care. We grieved, and sang, and wept at Mary Critchley's Fairy Story, as true now as it was when she wrote it...


As Chris Stockdale (above) explains: "I also resisted the cull - my surviving animals did so due to a lot of effort of various kinds, not least the fact that I had the Oaklands/John Gouriet helpsheet - which I read out to Anne-Marie over the phone the night before they were coming for hers - and also due to the fact that I was able to quote Prof. Fred Brown, O.B.E., F.R.S., of Plum Island to the American vet who came to slaughter them, and he, encouraged by the clean-up crew (who agreed with me), agreed to a blood-test which was negative."

"Most especially, by not killing these they then did not take dirty killing/recovery crew and contiguity over into the next parish to start all over again - that in itself almost certainly saved a neighbouring small farmer much like myself plus a big sheep farm plus a 200 cow organic dairy herd; it was a big sweat while I was resisting because there was the question of was I spreading it, would they get it from my 'infected' stock (as I was down as IP)?"

"I told the dairy farmer that I was doing my duty by my stock, that vaccination worked and that if he joined me in pressing for vaccination it would be more use than pressing me to give up my stock. We didn't fall out as it came to nothing - in fact, I think people are quite grateful for the stand I took (in retrospect), but at the time it was pretty uncomfortable either way round."


David Donaldson read his poem:


Easter Sunday and the plague is here.
The acrid stench of the remedy
Hangs in the air; the night skies
Are lit with it; the animals
Burning. Trenches gashed in the pasture
A hundred yards long, piled with sticks
Of railway sleepers and tons of coal.
They signal to each other across
The miles, these pathetic pyres,
Like the hilltop beacons of old
Giving warning. Only now
It is too late, for the enemy
Invaded long ago: no virus either,
But a conquering state of mind,
Overseeing the earth in its fullness
Up for sale and levelled flat; bound
Or caged in commercial calculations
Down to every last ounce and inch:
Animals as units of production,
Meat machines, statistic-driven
In service of the only free,
Unlimited immeasurable:
Our material needs! And so it is
Expedient that the animals
Light up the night skies. They are
As dispensable as the farmer's
Living relation to the land, as tracts
Of virgin wilderness, as rainforests.
For these fires warn: there is more
And worse to come from a ruling
State of mind which measures only
The surface of things, and denies
The living being of the World!


We spread the Steiner potion on the land to the beat of drums. We planted memorial trees, and we sang the following, with new words by Jean Dixon...


Where have all the young lambs gone? Long time passing.
Where have all their mothers gone? Long time ago
Where have all the young lambs gone?
Defra shot them every one.
When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?

Where have all the farmers gone? Long time passing.
Where have all their sheepdogs gone? Long time ago.
Where have all the farmers gone?
Flocks were killed so now they've gone.
When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn.

Where has mother nature gone? Long time passing.
Looking after everyone. Long time ago.
Where has mother nature gone?
Science killed her. Now she's gone.
When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?

Where has our green world gone? Long time passing.
Food and room for everyone. Long time ago.
Where has our green world gone?
Man's greed killed it. Now we've gone
Why did we never learn? Why did we never learn?


Chris Stockdale:  Helen's song, below, was very much the catalyst for the whole event; I first realised the coincidence of dates (Easter Sunday/our anniversary) at one of our rehearsals, I can't tell you how beautiful and moving much of her music is and for me. This song was really the jewel in the crown of the day. I should add that the significance of the rainbow is that one often sees a rainbow towards the end of spreading Biodynamic Preparation 500 (Steiner potion as you called it); often really good complete double arcs, right across the sky, (not a micro phenomena, and not imagined, as often captured on film). As these preps are spread with a brush, it is rather like colouring a rainbow over Orcop Hill.
Helen Terrett :

Thresholds are dangerous places, or should I say challenging?! The song 'Orcop Hill' came to me as I made my faltering way across one such threshold in my life back in 1995. It was nothing to do with foot and mouth and I had never been to Herefordshire. I didn't know the place Orcop then, or anyone who lived there; it was just a name in the back of an atlas which, by impressive synchronicity, came to represent my intention to move into a new phase in my life. I wrote the song at a time when that intent was being tested.

Seven years later on Easter Sunday I stood with a group of friends on a chilly Orcop hillside and sang the song with Chris Stockdale for his lost cattle who were killed a year ago to the day. Chris recognised the 'treasure' spoken of in the song, the gold lying under the ground, as his animals and livelihood as a farmer. But we also sang the song to affirm our hope that an even greater treasure may be brought up from this blackened ground: a change in our attitudes and practise, which will renew our proper connection to each other, the ground, and the plants and animals on whom we depend and take us over this difficult threshold.

I believe that, although we falter, we are making that crossing.

A Rainbow Over Orcop Hill

I coloured a rainbow
Over Orcop Hill
I follow the rainbow
Over Orcop Hill

How to find my treasure
Now the rainbow's gone?
My gold lies under the ground...

Helen Terrett, April 2002    

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