Combining to create waterside bullrushes

Bull and bullrushes.

Bull and bullrushes.

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Is this why they are called bull rushes? It may be a silly question, indeed a bit of bull in itself, but on more than one occasion I have had near altercations with bulls by the water sides where bulrushes have been growing, fortunately separated by a good wide ditch, grupp, rithe, or fosso (during an adventure in Portugal).

I took this photograph last week on the Arun meadows near South Stoke and in this case the animal rapidly approaching is obviously only a bullock.

But it did make the scalp tingle a tiny bit. For I was briefly taken back to a truly frightening moment when I was fifteen, at school in Devon, when a large black bull had broken out of its field by the Great Western canal and came looking for trouble down the tow-path.

I was on the opposite bank luckily but our geography master and his tiny granddaughter were not.

That bull stopped a few paces from them and started to paw the ground, tear up chunks of stone and grass with its hooves and snort in a most threatening way.

Said master, one Graham Parker, who had I think once played rugby for England stood his ground, while the tiny child cowered behind him.

He made soothing sounds to the enraged animal which I was glad to see eventually backed down and galloped with waving tail back through the hole in the fence to its adoring heifers.

On the Alentejo marshes upstream from Lisbon, my wife and I were once enjoying a wander down farm tracks in our Ford Fiesta when to our horror we saw twenty enormous black bulls approaching at the trot down the track towards us.

There was not room for both cattle and car. They filled the road. Behind them rode two horsemen with flagged lances.

Next to us in the fosso – you’ve guessed it – grew some fine lance-like bulrushes, or reedmaces as botanists nowadays usually call them.

As the animals approached like Panza tanks they parted just enough to avoid hurtling us into oblivion and we saw them to our amazement that they all had udders.

But then the exciting bit began, for three actual bulls off-duty from the local bullring appeared on the opposite bank and started to paw the grown as they snorted at our firey-red Fiesta, in a most terrible way.

With the way now clear ahead we shot off lest the animals decided to leap the fosseway and have a bit of sport themselves.