Marking Day on Minchinhampton Common
In the Cotswold town of Minchinhampton, the month of May has always been a special time of year. It's when hundreds of cattle are released on to the 450 acre Common nearby to spend the summer roaming free and grazing. Since Victorian times the livestock have been turned out on the same date every year, 13th May, known locally as Marking Day.
The generations-old practice of gathering herds together beside the local inn to brand (or 'mark') them has long since ended but the turning out of cattle on Marking Day is continued by a dedicated group of local graziers who are proud of their ancient commoners rights. This year there's renewed interest from the public thanks to a community event and celebration held beside the site of the old Marking Day cattle pens.
Vernon Harwood meets some of the people working hard to maintain this slice of farming heritage. Grazier Joyce Jones owns the most iconic herd to roam Minchinhampton Common; a fold of Highland cows. Stories about Marking Day and the traditions of the Common have been collected by retired schoolteacher Diana Wall who chairs the Minchinhampton Local History Group. The release of the animals and their welfare while they roam free is overseen by Mark Dawkins who has the title of Hayward, a role that dates back to the Middle Ages. He works alongside Richard Evans from the National Trust who is responsible for ensuring that the nationally important wildlife habitat is preserved for the future.
Photo courtesy of Minchinhampton Local History Group.