Since we first moved to Derby, I must have driven by this water-meadow on my way Morrisons to do the family shop, every Saturday for the best part of twenty years. And no matter what time of year, I’d always noticed the horses but had never been able to stop. This morning I was determined to find them, and so I cycled. Sure enough, there they were, knee deep in the buttercups and lush grass. There was a kindly gentleman by the footpath, upending a bag of hay and breaking up some carrots. I asked him if they were his horses. “No,” he replied. “They’re gypsy horses”. One of the male horses came over to investigate my bicycle, and I could see he’d been fighting, and had bite marks on his rump and tail.
He emptied the bag and we watched as a group of them came up to eat. There was a shaggy foal with them. He’d felt sorry for them in the winter when the water meadow was like a lake and they’d been marooned with nothing to eat, so he’d started feeding them. “But this’ll be the last time till next winter, now that the grass is up,” he said.
“Think the gyspies work them?” I asked. “No,” he replied. “But they do rotate them. Sometimes you see different ones in the field.”
The sunlight reflected on the water and lapwings flew high in the sky. On the far side of the water meadow, the Sheffield train went by and the horses galloped across into the next field. I said goodbye and walked along the green way, thinking about the Romany, where they had gone and when they were coming back for their horses.