The Creatures from the Black Lagoon!

3 10 2015

You generally hear about ‘The Creature from the Black Lagoon’ but this is a tale about two of them!

One sunny day this summer, I was walking on Uldale Common in Cumbria on one of my usual walks. I often pass a marshy area of ground which is really pretty and, because it floods into a small lake regularly, has various flowers like yellow flags (irises) in it. I’d noticed a bit of a path past part of the marsh but never gone down the steep banking to walk it – as it had been quite dry weather for a while, I decided to have a change and walk down there.

The Drowning Bog

The Drowning Bog & Thistles

As soon as I descended to the part-time lake, I realised there wasn’t really a path as such but just an intermittent area of dry ground at the foot of the banking. There were many excursions up the banking needed to get past some parts which were still underwater and some patches of what looked like dry ground but swallowed your foot when you trod on it!

It was while traversing a section of the banking, I noticed a sheep lying alone. It’s very unusual for a sheep to be away from the rest of the flock so I wondered what was wrong. As I peered at her, and she stared back, I realised she was within the boundary of the marsh and could possibly be stuck. I went to investigate…

The Drowning Bog2
The sheep was near the bottom left hand edge and not visible from many angles

As I neared her, she panicked and tried to struggle away and I saw she was indeed stuck and only her back and head were sticking out of the ground. Talking to her to calm her, I slowly approached… she was well and truly sunk! I could see it was a ‘shoes-off’ job and took them off – shame I didn’t remember to remove my expensive altimeter watch and rings.

At first, I stood on the bank and managed to grab her horns to try to drag her out. However, sheep are heavy and she was well stuck so I started to worry I’d break her neck. Oh well – time to get in!

I waded knee deep into the thick, black sludge, feeling it sucking at my feet. At least I was getting a free mudpack! I reached down into the thick slime to see if I could locate her front legs. I managed to find the first one and pulled her upwards by that and one horn and her front end came up a bit. It wasn’t enough however, so I had to let her go again – I managed to place her front foot on slightly firmer ground first though.

Diving down again, I managed to locate her other front leg and tried again – nope – still firmly stuck. I placed that leg on the firmer ground too. Luckily, by now, she’d realised I didn’t mean her any harm and was trying to help so she was working with me rather than against me. But there wasn’t much she could do to help at that stage!

I tried lifting her backend by her fleece and her tail to no avail. It would have to be a dive down for the back legs then… My arms went in up to my shoulders as I hunted around for her legs. I found one quite easily but couldn’t find the other and realised I needed both really to get her out without damage.

Eventually, after much fishing around, I found her other hind leg and loosened that. Rather than lift her by her legs, I swapped to putting one hand on a rear leg and the other underneath her body and hauling. Sheep are very heavy but she was quite a lightweight one thankfully and, once I’d got her unstuck, she started to come up nicely.

Fortunately, as I hauled her upwards and forwards towards the drier ground, she started to help with her front feet and eventually dragged herself free and staggered up onto the dry bank.

At this point, I found just how much gratitude livestock give when you do them a favour – none whatsoever. She looked around in horror at me and two thoughts came into her mind…

“Eeek! a horrible, black, smelly human! I’ll leave it stuck in the bog”

swiftly followed by,

“GRASSSSS!!”

On spotting the grass, she instantly stopped worrying about me and the fact that her front legs weren’t really working and started eating as fast as her single row of teeth would chomp (sheep only have one set of teeth). She was absolutely starving! No idea how long she’d been in there. She was lucky she hadn’t met the same fate as the lamb I once found in a bog though… the birds had got to that while it was still alive and removed kidneys and whatever else they could peck down to. It didn’t live much longer…

I proceeded to drag myself out of the thick sludge – I felt like my feet were being pulled off but eventually managed to escape to the bank myself. We were both completely caked in black sludge. It was at this point I realised about my watch and rings – my watch luckily says it’s ‘water resistant’ – I hoped it was. I was thankful my rings hadn’t pulled off as they so easily could have.

I was rather worried about her front legs and not sure whether she was just weak with hunger, struggling and her enforced immobility so I sat on the bank and watched her for a while. In the end, I decided I might as well call back the next day and check on her as nothing was likely to change in the next few hours until she’d eaten and rested.

I went off down the track, having to stay in bare feet as I needed to find a stream to wash the gunge off my feet before I could put my trainers back on. Unfortunately, as the weather had been so dry, it was a mile or so before I could find a sufficiently deep pool to try to get cleaned up.

I stood in the pool and washed my arms and legs off but was amazed how much rubbing it took to have any effect. I then started on my feet and, despite that they’d been soaking for quite a while, it was just as difficult to remove that mud too.

Eventually, I deemed myself presentable – or at least no-one was going to run away in horror. I looked like a tramp though as my clothes were filthy. Luckily, by the end of the track there are several farms. I chose the nearest one, told them what had happened and said that I thought the sheep needed checking over. The old farmer assured me he’d send one of ‘his lads’ out later. I had my doubts…

The next day I set off for the couple of mile walk to the black lagoon… I could see no quad bike tracks had gone out that way and doubt the farmer’s lad would have walked. Luckily, she was no longer down by the lagoon. I went off up the hill looking for her and suddenly realised there was a sheep looking at me like she knew me – it was her and, although limping a bit still, she appeared to be none the worse for her ordeal πŸ™‚

Aughertree Tree
No photos of the sheep in order to protect her privacy – have a tree at Aughertree en-route to the common instead πŸ˜†

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24 responses

8 10 2015
Mark

I had a similar incident with a Red Deer I found hanging by a rear leg on a fence. I took several minutes to cut it free with a Swiss Army Knife and the help of my son. Three other people calmly stood by to watch but wouldn’t help. When free the beast ran off downhill trailing its injured leg behind. I suspect it died of infection in the undergrowth. Maybes that’s marginally better than whilst hanging on a fence……………..

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8 10 2015
mountaincoward

It certainly would be less frightening, painful and uncomfortable than hanging from the fence. I hope it didn’t die but, of course, we’ll never know. Well done for rescuing it though. They’re a big, heavy beast so it must have been quite a job. I can’t believe no-one else offered to help 😦

I saw a dead sheep once hanging by a rear leg down a wall from some barbed wire. All the blood had pooled to its head and dripped out of its nose before it died. Was a horrible thing to find and it really upset me. I wish we’d found it in time to help.

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6 10 2015
Rowena

I love how fate intervened here! Shame no picture of the sheep – I was looking out for that. Understand the need to protect privacy though πŸ˜‰
My cats seem to show gratitude though, strangely…although cats aren’t as dumb as sheep.

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8 10 2015
mountaincoward

I suppose a sheep’s first instinct is to get away from a human, even if they did just help it out. I’m just lucky she wasn’t panicking while I was extricating her and that she kept calm and helped as best she could. Some sheep wouldn’t even have the sense for that!

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6 10 2015
jwuollife

What a wonderful post, and a very compassionate thing to have done….you deserve all the; amazing karma coming your way….thank you, on behalf of the sheep you rescued. ❀

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8 10 2015
mountaincoward

Thank you πŸ™‚ I could never let any animal suffer and always try to help – just sometimes there isn’t much can be done. I was really pleased to get her out.

Liked by 1 person

11 10 2015
jwuollife

A person after my own heart, I’m forever rescuing stray birds & the like…animals give so much love, and deserve it back from us ❀

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11 10 2015
mountaincoward

Well I wish more people thought like us πŸ™‚

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6 10 2015
fedup

I can remember a hill farmer telling me years ago that a sheep’s sole aim in life is to die and will find the most unusual & unexpected way to reach this goal. Alas I fear your kind act may have only put off the inevitable πŸ˜‰

In Spring I quite often rescue young lambs that get their heads stuck in the fences around the mine shafts above Sandbeds & Pott’s Gill, not too far from here – so Caldbeck sheep are just as suicidal as the Uldale ones!

Cheers Simon

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8 10 2015
mountaincoward

A Hebridean farmer told me something very similar. I’m sure I saw her up there today anyway so she still seems to be surviving. I passed a group of sheep on the common with the same markings and one spent more time staring at me and less time running away so I’m sure it was her πŸ˜‰

When you’re rescuing sheep from that square stock-fence netting, just be careful if they’re horned. One good jerk back and you could lose your fingers!

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11 10 2015
fedup

These are just lambs with little buds for horns – I think the squares are two small for sheep – so no danger there πŸ™‚ . I have nearly lost my fingers attempting to rescue a sheep where a fence was put on upside down (the spacings sometimes get wider near the top – this section of netting was wide at the bottom) near Gairloch – I informed the owners of a nearby ‘farming’ croft and the sheep was gone the next day πŸ™‚

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13 10 2015
mountaincoward

I’ve nearly lost my fingers rescuing our local goat from one of those squares – she kept jerking back and I kept nearly getting trapped between her horns and the netting. Luckily, I’d already thought of the danger and had enlisted another woman to help me and was keeping my fingers out of the way.

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5 10 2015
underswansea

Very well done Carol! Could almost hear the sucking sounds as hoof and foot came unstuck. Bob

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5 10 2015
mountaincoward

Shame the sheep didn’t appear to appreciate my efforts!

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5 10 2015
underswansea

Sheep can be so unappreciative – then again, I can’t remember the last time I thanked one for a sweater!

Liked by 1 person

5 10 2015
mountaincoward

LOL true

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4 10 2015
smackedpentax

Well done you! I guess most people would have just walked on by, letting her take her chances and not getting mucky themselves.

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4 10 2015
mountaincoward

She’d have died if she’d been left – she was well and truly ‘sunk’

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4 10 2015
Blue Sky Scotland

A kind act and a committing one once you start. I had a similar experience years ago with a sheep stuck fast in a bog with only its head showing. An hour later I was still there wishing I hadn’t bothered but managed to free it eventually only to find it was too far gone to stand or even sit up. Another time we were backpacking and rescued a sheep stuck against a fence across a small river as it must have fallen in and been swept against it. We saved it only to find it jumped in again immediately to cross to the other side to get away from us and nearly drowned in the act before it reached the far bank.
They really are stupid creatures but engineered that way to be docile and gormless over countless generations. I sometimes wonder if reality TV programmes and celebrity adoration will eventually have the same effect on us :o)

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4 10 2015
mountaincoward

I think sheep would probably make more interesting contestants to reality programmes!

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4 10 2015
tessapark1969

Well done for the rescue and not getting stuck yourself!

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4 10 2015
mountaincoward

It was surprising how much force I had to use to drag my legs out of the gunge!

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4 10 2015
Simon Howlett

Sounds like you had a lovely day out, Carol. A gallant rescue mission and I’m pleased the sheep is doing well. I bet you looked a picture covered in black sludge … do you have any photos!?

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4 10 2015
mountaincoward

Unfortunately not – it would actually have made a good photo to take one of the almost black sheep and my legs.

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