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Remember the cows?

At-the-watering-hole-scan©Karen Humpage

Karen Humpage announces the launch of her book featuring artwork and anecdotes of the cows that once roamed the local streets of Wanstead and Woodford

Wanstead residents may already be familiar with my work. My paintings of the cows that used to wander the local streets have been shown at Art Trail Wanstead and the Wanstead Festival, as well as being featured in this publication.

I recently finished writing my book on the subject, entitled Common or Garden Cows, which will be released in August. I’m very excited about the book coming out and keen to know what everyone thinks about it. I’m hoping to organise a ‘meet the author’ afternoon in a local establishment, and possibly do some readings from the book, so check my website for details.

I’ve already had the seal of approval from Year 3 pupils at St John’s C of E school in Buckhurst Hill. I spent a lovely afternoon there recently talking about when the cows used to come to town and showing them my cow paintings. In turn, they all drew and coloured in pictures of cows causing traffic jams and getting into people’s front gardens.

Growing up in Woodford in the seventies – Rokeby Gardens to be precise – I remember the cows ambling up the road, munching all the privet hedges and liberating the rosebushes of all their flowers. It seemed quite normal at the time, but I suppose if it happened now, there would be letters to the council! Not that cows would find much to eat in gardens nowadays. My bugbear of people losing interest in their gardens and turning them into car parks crops up in the book on more than one occasion!

I attended Nightingale High School and went horse riding at the Snaresbrook Riding School. I remember seeing the cows over The Hollows many times while out riding – we’d have to give them a wide berth in case they frightened the horses!

Here follows an extract from the book, taken from the beginning of Chapter Three, entitled Traffic.

‘A commuter’s day would not start well if they opened their front door to find a cow or three standing in the front garden. Having to run the gauntlet past a large cow to the gate was not an exercise most people would relish unless they fancied themself as a contestant on It’s A Knockout. So, most people waited until the cows moved on, leading to many seemingly outlandish excuses as to why they were late for work.

“I remember the cows well. We used to live in Beverley Crescent and I once had to call work to say I’d be late as three cows were in our front garden and I couldn’t get out of the house. They thought I was mad!”

The daily drudgery of waiting for a bus could be alleviated by the spectacle of a cow joining the commute. Not privy to the tradition of queuing, a cow could fill a whole bus shelter, leaving the poor commuters resigned to standing out in the inevitable rain. “There was a wooden bus shelter on Lake House Road…in it waiting for a bus was an enormous cow just standing there minding its own business.”’     

For more information on Karen’s book, Common or Garden Cows (£12.99), visit wnstd.com/kh or follow Karen on Facebook at facebook.com/karenhumpageart
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Karen Humpage