AS MANY as 400 cows invaded a cemetery in Thornbury, creating mess and causing damage to numerous grave plots.

The herd found their way into Thornbury Cemetery on Friday last week after being disturbed and breaking through a fence separating the two areas.

Shocking CCTV footage shows the rampage as the cows flocked through the cemetery.

Fortunately the animals were spotted early into the jailbreak, and were being ushered back into the field within an hour.

However, they left extensive damage to the grass in their wake, caused by the animals’ hooves, which also spread muck and mud around the site.

With the wet weather over the weekend, a number of graves appear to have been sunk under the weight of the animals.

Thornbury residents Pete and Sue Turl, who had come to tend to family grave plots on Saturday, told the Gazette how horrified they were to find the level of "devasation" the herd had caused.

They said: "We come down here quite regularly and it is clear that some of the graves are recently broken, that were ok beforehand.

"All the paths covered in mud, cow pats everywhere and hoof marks. It was obvious a lot of cows had been in there.

"To see the cemetery in that kind of disorder is quite upsetting because it is normally beautifully kept, it is one of the neatest you will find for many, many miles around."

A spokesman for Thornbury Town Council said that, as far as they could tell, no gravestones had been damaged, but that they had already agreed with the farmer that he would pay for the damages.

“We would like to thank the farmer for his prompt action in resolving the situation which helped to minimise the damage despite the large number of cattle," the spokesman said.

"Our grounds staff have been busy clearing up and there has only been damage to the ground and plants which will recover given time.

"As far as we can tell no permananet damage has been done to any of the graves. We would like to apologise for any inconvenience or upset that this incident has caused and if anyone has any concerns about this incident, then we would ask you to get in touch with us.”

The herd has since been moved from the field, with work to remove the mess having begun by council staff.

The Gazette is awaiting a comment from the farmer.