The Garden Guide

St James's Cow and Milkmaids

For centuries you buy a glass of milk fresh-from-the-cow in St James’s Park in Central London.  Alicia Amherst gives the history:   "The cows were banished in 1905. A Frenchman wrote that ‘hardly suggested the rural simplicity of the days when cows were really pastured in the Park. For over two centuries grazing was let to the milk-women who sold milk at the end of the Park, near Whitehall. They paid half-a-crown a week, and after 1772 three shillings a week, for the right to feed cattle in the Park. A Frenchman, describing St James's at that time, is astonished at its rural aspect. "In that part nearest Westminster nature appears in all its rustic simplicity; it is a meadow, regularly intersected and watered by canals, and with willows and poplars, without any regard to order. On this side, as well as on that towards St. James's Palace, the grass plots are covered with cows and deer, where they graze or chew the cud, some standing, some lying down upon the grass.... Agreeably to this rural simplicity, most of these cows are driven, about noon and evening, to the gate which leads from the Park to the quarter of Whitehall. Tied to posts at the extremity of the grass plots, they swill passengers with their milk, which, being drawn from their udders on the spot, is served, with all cleanliness peculiar to the English, in little mugs at the rate of a penny a mug."

Sponsorship opportunities:  Royal Parks, National Farmers Union, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Defra has its offices round the corner, in Northumberland Avenue, and could send teams of inspectors to ensure the cows were kindly treated and that the milk met the highest possible standards for hygeinic freshness. They should see the milkmaid and the cow as pioneering a new era in the history of organic agriculture  - a 100% sustainable cafe for health soft drinks: no bottles, no storage, no refrigeration, no transport, no air miles.  Wonderful.

 St Jamses's Park's milk cow
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