As I open the gate and walk through it and the seventy-five goats keenly push forward, poised to read from me which walk we would be going on this afternoon. As soon as I make steps in the direction of the chosen path there was no stopping them and they almost thunder past and alongside me, through the passageway under the low trees, along the path.
As we go off the path into the open hills, the group centre themselves around us, their human leaders, so we have to take care that we place ourselves on our chosen route in the open countryside. Incrementally as we move forward very, very slowly they arrange themselves around us, stopping for long pauses, we give them time to eat the leaves, and foliage of the undergrowth and trees.
At stop points along the way some of the goats, of which there are very obviously all range of ages come and say hello. They might nuzzle, lean their heads on us, place their cheeks next to our shoulders as we sit down for periods of time, seeming to tune into us, read us, or gaining quiet comfort. Or sometimes they might just use our seated shoulders as a prop to stand on, with their front legs so they can reach a higher branch of a tasty tree.
I notice throughout the afternoon that although the goats walk and run close to me they might nudge or brush past but they never hurt me with their large, daunting horns. Some of them have horns that reach upwards to the sky and therefore do not have much trouble negotiating them through the undergrowth but some have horns that splay outwards on either side of her head, curling around and diminishing into points but still a foot or more long. Although the goat might be irritated and annoyed by their horn’s awkwardness I notice how they steer them through gaps in the trees and bushes with clever agility so that they do not hit the trees and branches.
The two border collie dogs, Virgule and Foucette have a certain superior air about them, when we are at a stand still, they lounge around, twitching the flies off their faces and when we move they bring up the rear nipping the goats on their back sides if they appear to be procrastinating.
When the afternoon has passed, when the goats have munched grabbed leaves and branches for several hours and when the suns heat has relented, it is time to go back. Calls of “Aller, aller, pars la, on y va” prompt the dogs to get exited starting to round up the goats and the goats turn their head upwards away from the vegetation and gather into a herd. They run along the pathway, causing dust to rise on the dry, rocky passageway. The baby goats trot along after the group and suddenly the new swift pace means that we arrive back at the farm where we tie up the gate, the herd snatch and tug mouthfuls of hay from the feeders, lined up and shuffling closely around each other, enclosed for the night.