Sheep race at St Ouen’s Manor fête cancelled after two of the flock vault 5ft perimeter wall and flee
THE sheep race at St Ouen’s Manor fête had to be cancelled on Saturday after two of the flock vaulted a 5ft perimeter wall and fled, pursued by the organisers, to the cover of a nearby maize field.
Former Education Minister and fête site manager James Reed described the incident as ‘unbelievable’, and when asked how two ordinary sheep managed to perform such a gravity-defying feat, added: ‘To be honest, we are all still struggling with that.’
Following procedure from previous years, the organisers had marked out the course using metre-high ‘sheep fencing’, commonly used by farmers to corral their flocks – only a short section was not delineated in this way because it had the benefit of a permanent, much higher wall.
Contrary to everyone’s expectations, this was the section of the course where two of the four racing sheep decided to make their bid for freedom.
The organiser of the race, Charles Le Maistre, described how it happened.
‘We were getting them ready, just having a test run, and then they simply jumped over the back wall,’ he said, adding that it was a ‘big surprise’ to see them clear that distance.
‘There are these small bales they jump over in the race but they’re only about a foot high. These sheep are really quite springy, though, and we had given them some nuts – they were really excited to start racing.’
But the jumping did not stop there – Mr Le Maistre said he saw one of the runaway animals, having cleared the wall, proceed to spring over the top of an ‘elderly lady’ who happened to find herself standing in its path.
‘When they had escaped, at one stage there was this elderly lady who must have been about 5ft 2in and a chap, who were standing about a foot and a half apart, and the sheep were heading right for them.
‘We thought they would either turn around and stop running or else head through the gap between these two people but he [the sheep] leapt in the air and jumped right over her shoulder.’
Mr Reed added that, when he looked back on the build-up to the race, the animals had shown no signs that they were restless or planning an escape of any kind.
‘The sheep were brought to the manor on Friday evening, after we had fenced out the course, and they stayed in a pen overnight, all relaxed and everything,’ he said. ‘I went to see them in the morning and they were still completely fine – nice and calm, no problems.’
And yet this restful demeanour quickly evaporated once the animals had broken the perimeter of the manor grounds, Mr Reed recalled.
‘They set off at pace, crossing the road, fortunately without incident, and disappeared into a field of maize,’ he said. ‘Unfortunately, though, the maize was about four feet tall, so of course, you couldn’t see where the sheep were.
‘Eventually, it was decided that we should just allow them to stay in there and rest, and eat, which they did.’
Finally, the runaways were lured back with the aid of their two, rule-abiding flock members, who were brought to the edge of the maize field to bleat at them until they relented and re-emerged from the maize.
The rest of the fête, however, went according to plan and was well attended and ‘a huge success’, Mr Reed said, adding that the money raised would go to Les Amis and the Jersey Childcare Trust.