Monday 25 February 2019

Beasts of Bodmin Moor

"Get on". The farmer nodded to the platform at the back of his quad bike.  The ford focus patrol car had gone as far as it was going to go down the dirt track that wound its way through the woods from the road to the fields.  I left the car at the gate to the field.  It was splattered with mud from the track, and I thought about the 100 yards I would have to reverse back down the track before there would be enough room to try a three point turn.  But that was a problem for later, after I'd investigated the report of worrying livestock.  So I clambered onto the back of the quad and the farmer bumped and splashed his way across his field towards his isolated farmhouse.  It was the remotest and muddiest property I had so far visited since joining Devon and Cornwall Constabulary, and the owner could have doubled for Compo on the telly show Last of the Summer Wine.  As we arrived at the farm buildings he stopped with a jolt and pointed at the carcass of a sheep, its face and throat badly mauled.  The farmer had found the dead sheep that morning, the animal that had attacked it being long gone.  There were a couple of other sheep with injuries, but they had survived.  And they weren't pregnant. That was the last time I personally dealt with a sheep being killed, and I never did manage to find out who was responsible.  And to be perfectly honest I'm not sure we would even be able to attend an incident like that these days; we'd probably have to take the report via the internet or over the phone.  When I later spoke to the farmer to let him know I was going to file the crime as undetected he said, "Well I'll shoot the begger if it come back, even if 'tis Beast of Bodmin."
Attacks on sheep are far too common, particularly on Bodmin Moor where since last April there have been reports of 54 sheep being killed, 22 injured and 11 that had to be rescued after getting trapped in a quarry. And it's the Beasts of Bodmin that have four wheels or are "man's best friend" that are doing the damage.  Bodmin Moor is a common and sheep and ponies graze there, sharing the moorland and its roads with dog walkers and cars.  The challenges the sheep and ponies face are hard enough without having to cope with cars travelling at inappropriate speeds or dogs off the lead and worrying livestock. But we can all make their lives that bit safer with a little more care and attention when driving, and keeping our dogs on a lead between the beginning of March and the end of July, and at any other time of year when we are near livestock.  There's also a bit of a day of action on behalf of the livestock on the moor this coming Saturday 2nd March, with awareness events being held at Minions at 11.00 am and Pensilva at 3.00 pm.  You will definitely be able to get to them without getting stuck on a dirt track or taking a muddy ride on the back of a quad bike.
prevent livestock worrying on Bodmin Moor

PS. We wish you safe travels, and thank you for your kindness and honesty.

Monday 4 February 2019

How fast?

I am now the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly representative on the Roads Policing Strategy Group.  It's great.  For the most part it involves trying to work out how to reduce "KSI"s, take dangerous and uninsured drivers off the road, get communities involved in making our roads as safe as they can be and that type of thing.  Oh, and in case you were wondering KSI stands for Killed and Seriously Injured.  I had to ask when I first heard that. I'm not a traffic cop.
I also had to ask about another phrase, "The Fatal Five".  It was being thrown about by my colleagues in white cap covers. The "fatal" bit was pretty obvious, and I figured there were five things to do with roads that would end you up that way. But I didn't want to assume what those five things were, hence I asked about that too.  I fear I might be getting a reputation for asking too many questions. Anyway, the answer is here -  The Fatal Five .
I was not surprised to learn that number one on that list is inappropriate or excessive speed, the results of which I saw early on in my career.  The first time that I remember consciously seeing the results of excessive speed was when I was looking at the engine block of a Mk1 Ford Escort in the middle of the carriageway, next to a small tree it had knocked over.  The debris that had once been the Mk 1 Ford Focus containing that engine block and its proud owner was spread in lumps and chunks quite some considerable distance either side of the engine block.  I was on a cordon whilst a  Traffic Police Sergeant with an awesome moustache and a clip board took measurements and made notes on his beautifully drawn map of the crash scene. Whilst I was holding one end of the tape measure next to a lamp post and he walked the other end out to the front axle, I asked him how fast he thought the car had been going.
He gave me one of those, 'stop asking sfqs [silly flaming questions] looks' before answering, "I'll tell you exactly how fast he was going.  He was going too bloody fast.." Then as he wound the little handle and the tape measure disappeared back into its black leather case he continued, "Now get back on that cordon and make sure some dozy berk doesn't drive through the road closed sign and run me over."
That was a while ago and cars are now generally safer to drive (but just as dangerous if you are unlucky enough to get hit by one) and better at staying on the road.  But they do still crash. Here in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly there were over 460 reports of damage only and personal injury road traffic collisions last month.  Going too fast will have been a factor in almost all of them.  I sincerely hope that you are not one of the next 460 or so reports.  Driving at appropriate and safe speeds helps.



PS Please drive safely, and as ever your kindness and honesty are appreciated.