Tag Archives: Rutland Water

A Werewolf in Yorkshire: Eeh bah gum (again) !

I told you in previous articles that there were more werewolves about than you might think. News came in recently, on Sunday May 15th, of werewolf sightings near Hull in East Yorkshire. The national newspaper, the Daily Express, took up the story. Here is a highly abridged version:

“Seven separate eye witnesses claim to have spotted the 8ft tall creature lurking in an abandoned industrial area outside the centre of Hull.

Residents and folklore experts believe the beast is Old Stinker who, according to legend, is a foul-breathed creature in the Yorkshire Wolds.
The lonely banks of Barmston Drain are where the creature was first reported before Christmas.
One woman claims to have seen it turn from man to beast as she stood on the bridge”:

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She said: “It was stood upright one moment. The next it was down running like a dog. I was terrified.
It bounded along, then stopped and reared up on its back legs, before running down the embankment towards the water.
It vaulted thirty feet over to the other side and vanished into some allotments. It both ran on all two legs and on all fours, as if with the qualities of both human and wolf.”

A couple saw “something tall and hairy” eating a German Shepherd dog next to the Drain.
They saw it jump an 8ft high fence before vanishing into the night, its prey still in its jaws.

I have a link to that. Something tall and hairy, eating a German Shepherd dog?

A woman walking her dog spotted something “half-man, half-dog” in the distance.
She was terrified, and her pet began shaking and refused to go any further:

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Well, this monster could well have become a minor source of tourist revenue, particularly with the right people in the right costumes. Unfortunately, though, the locals chose to shoot themselves in the foot.

Leave well alone?? Rake in the cash??  No. No. NO!

Let’s take the high risk strategy of going to look for “Old Stinker”, the moment the next full moon raises her beautiful head. Notice how the local councillor just can’t keep away, and his almost childlike faith in Hull Council:

“Now locals plan a werewolf hunt with cameras and recording equipment. Councillor Steve Wilson has offered to keep an incident log: “I am happy to keep a diary of sightings by people around here and report them to Hull Council.”

Just one step from the Stasi.

Local author Charles Christian said: “Old Stinker was actually said to be operating on the other side of the Yorkshire Wolds but it would be no distance at all for a large animal to get to Hull.”

What faith in the public transport system. Why, it’s probably run by Hull Council:

werewolf attack

Mike Covell, an expert in the supernatural, said: “No one really knows what to do. You can hardly pop down the local council office or police station and say you’d like to report a werewolf.”

Well, Mike, have I got news for you. That is exactly what everybody has been doing. On a discussion forum, watertight evidence was provided of previous werewolves in Yorkshire by “wmysteries90″:

“I had one witness claim they saw a huge dog which stood up, jumped over a fence and then run off with a cattle animal.(sic) Then his friend came forward to his fried stating he had seen a huge dog in the same area. (sic) A woman claimed she heard a strange howl. While a former military guy with an undisclosed area on the moors stated that few years back with a routine team in the middle of the night they had the sense of being watched by something.

Also there have been claims made by people around the moors stating that they have either seen or heard strange howls, growls.”

Indeed, the Daily Mail were to concentrate more fully on placing the “Barmston Drain Dog Destroyer” in its proper context, once they had established that the Werewolf Councillor was from the Labour Party.

Old Stinker, therefore, was supposed to haunt the “Wold Newton Triangle” (the what??), an area known for mysterious activity (really?):

wold newton triangle

“For centuries, tales have circulated of zombies, ghosts, and Old Stinker – a great hairy beast with red eyes, who was so called because he had bad breath…people would glimpse the rear lights of a car in front, but it would reveal itself to be the red eyes of a wolf.”

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How often that has happened to me. Although driving a 1994 Volvo I don’t catch up too many cars, or werewolves, for it to be a real problem. Well, it’s not as bad as ice or sudden banks of fog.

If you want to investigate further the question of “How gullible can people get?”, then this is a similar story, set in the same area, but harking back in the “Golden Age of Satanic Panic”.

werewol
My previous story about the “Barmston Drain Dog Destroyer” and the “Golden Age of Satanic Panic” was soon followed in the national press by the story of two people who saw what they thought was a puma type creature as they returned home along country lanes around Pershore in Worcestershire in the early hours of the morning:

puma

They suddenly saw a “muscular black animal” in the middle of the road. It was around one metre long and they were forced into an emergency stop. The creature circled the car and appeared to be about as tall as the car window. Its eye reflection was green. Frightened, the couple drove off, but not before they had noticed what they took to be the eyes of the creature’s mate hiding in the darkness of the hedgerow:

big cat

There have apparently been other sightings of puma type animals elsewhere in the county, at Evesham, Malvern and in the Malvern Hills.

Indeed, there are continuing reports of pumas or ABCs as they are called (Alien Big Cats) all over the country. In Leicestershire, for example, experts have said that there are two territories which overlap around the East Midlands Airport at Castle Donington. Rutland Water is included in one of them:

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Even I have seen one, while I was trying out my new “see in the dark” binoculars. I thought it was a fox at the time, but I now realise that foxes don’t have long curved tails, wide faces or big round ears. There are even videos of these killer cats. This one comes from AnimalInfoTV, who produce a great number of really interesting looking videos on a number of different subjects. I would commend them to you:

Going back to the “Puma of Pershore” though, what makes this news story quite extraordinary, however, is the fact that when the couple did a drawing of what they had seen, because a werewolf had been spotted near Hull around the same time, the consensus of opinion suddenly became that they had actually seen the “Worcestershire Werewolf” rather than the “Puma of Pershore”.

werewolf

Well, here is their drawing. Make your own mind up. “Worcestershire Werewolf”?? or the  “Puma of Pershore”??

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I went to Pershore twitching once. It’s a really lovely place. It was to see a Black-throated Thrush, which was at the time, a mega-rarity:

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The Osprey in Victorian Nottinghamshire

In the first half of the nineteenth century, William Felkin tells an intriguing story about an osprey in Nottinghamshire:

“In 1839, a female was captured at Beeston Rylands, and kept alive sometime; it was tamed, and often used to fly from its owner’s house to the river, and stand in the shallow water it measured 5’7″ from tip to tip of its wings.”

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In 1855  William Sterland tells how a bird took up a temporary residence on the edges of the lake at Thoresby during the summer:

“Attracted in its wanderings by the piscine resources of the large sheet of water where I had the pleasure of seeing it. Here it remained some weeks, faring sumptuously, its manner of fishing affording me and others who witnessed it much gratification ; its large size, its graceful manner of hovering over the water when on the lookout for its prey, and the astonishing rapidity of its plunge when darting on its victim, rendering it a conspicuous object:

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It then to my great regret took its departure, doubtless alarmed at the attacks of the gamekeepers, who viewed its successful forays with little favour.”

In 1880 an Osprey was trapped at Rainworth on an unrecorded date. In one of his notebooks, Joseph Whitaker described it as:

“a beautiful Osprey caught in a rabbit trap by Mr F Ward on May 16th. It measured 5’4″ from wingtip to wingtip.”

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A further account of what is presumably the same occurrence is included in Whitaker’s own copy of “The Birds of Nottinghamshire”, written out in his own hand opposite the entry for this species:

“One of the Duke of Portland’s keepers caught a fine specimen of this Hawk this morning Tuesday. On Monday evening he saw the bird flying about over the heather on the forest where it struck a rabbit & carried it off. About half past four this morning (Tuesday) he again observed the bird strike a rabbit but being near he left it having some traps with him he quickly set some & soon had him in one the bird was in good condition & very fine plumage it measured 5 feet 4½ inches inches from tip to tip.”

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This final account occurs in “The Zoologist” magazine for 1890:

“One of these fine, but now, alas ! rare birds was shot about the middle of November last by Mr George Edison at Shire Oaks Hall in this county. When he first noticed it, it was hovering over one of the pieces of water near the house, but was being teased by a number of Rooks, who drove it over him, when he shot it. I hear it was a very fine bird, and in good condition. Shire Oaks is just the place to attract an Osprey, having several beautiful sheets of water full of fish of good size, and many species – J WHITAKER, Rainworth,  Notts.”

The editor of “The Zoologist” has added his own opinion at the end of the letter. He writes:

“What a pity that it could not be allowed to remain unmolested in a spot so well suited to its habits. To see an Osprey catch a fish is one of the finest sites in nature.-ED”

Ain’t that the truth!

Nowadays, of course, you can drive the thirty or forty miles south to Rutland Water where Ospreys have been introduced and in the summer as many as eight breeding pairs may be seen:

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Here is the link to the webcam which keeps watch on one of the birds’ nest.

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Excitement with a capital Egret

(An extract from my old birdwatching diary “Crippling Views”)

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Saturday, June 18, 1988

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Excitement with a capital E. I ring faithful old Birdline, at two o’clock, and for once strike lucky. The pre-recorded message tells me that a Great White Egret is present at Rutland Water, on the Egleton Reserve. I ring Paul before jumping into the car and heading off at a rate of knots. Noble and honourable to the core. Except Paul isn’t there. I decide on a compromise, or, as you are entitled to call it, the coward’s way out. I’ve already promised my wife that I’ll take her to Sainsbury’s, so I spend the next half hour driving round the Ring Road at 90 miles per hour, doing a week’s shopping in a British Olympic qualifying time, and then returning to phone Paul just once more. Still no answer. Knowing him, he’s properly gone off with his mate Mark to see the bird without bothering to tell me. So into the car I jump, and off I go.

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It takes me about three quarters of an hour to do the forty miles to Rutland Water, with an irritating delay in the Saturday shopping traffic at both Melton Mowbray and Oakham.

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When I get to the reserve, there is a heart stopping moment when I see that there are no cars in the reserve car park. Not to worry, the bird has just moved a short distance out of the reserve, towards the Hambleton Road. The warden on duty gives me a disconcertingly long set of immensely complex instructions to take me down to a crossroads, where the bird is still on view. In actual fact, his instructions prove to be wonderfully exact and easy to follow, and I am soon beside a crossroads, where there is an obvious crowd of birdwatchers, and a great tangle of carelessly parked and apparently abandoned cars.

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I see the bird immediately from the car, before I even pull to a halt. It flies in an almighty arc, with that same translucent pearly white as the  Little Egret I saw at Frampton, only this time the bird is a lot bigger, the size of a Grey Heron.

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When I finally arrive on foot at “The Place”, “The Bird” has landed on the very topmost branch of a tree, about seventy yards from the road. It is a very striking individual, looking absolutely enormous, perched in the very top twigs of what is not really a particularly large  tree. The bird appears to be extremely precariously balanced, but it seems happy enough. I get it in my telescope and watch it until boredom sets in. The bird is, by now, just very gradually beginning to get more and more restless, as a larger and larger crowd builds up, and the hum of human conversation gradually becomes louder and louder. It keeps looking around in an almost panicky sort of way, until it finally flies off low between the trees, looking for all the world as if it is going just a few hundred yards away.

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In actual fact, it isn’t, and the rare visitor is never seen again on the reserve.I drive around to the northern section of the reserve, where there are a lot of quiet places, all ideal habit for an egret. It isn’t there. I look for a good half hour, but finally have to admit defeat. It’s really sad how many birdwatchers arrive after the bird’s departure, some from as far away as Somerset. On the other hand, it is certainly arguable that it is the large number of noisy, chattering birdwatchers that have caused the bird to fly off.

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Nowadays, some twenty five years later, the Great White Egret is by no means a rare bird in England.

They have bred here on at least two occasions, in 2012 and 2013, at Shapwick Heath, Nature England’s National Nature Reserve in Somerset.

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Every year, up to forty individuals will arrive in England in the winter, having left the colder climes of mainland Europe. The bird which remains still genuinely rare in England, though, is the American version of this bird, the Great Egret Ardea alba egretta (as opposed to the European Great White Egret Ardea alba alba). This subspecies is suspected as having occurred in the UK as a very rare vagrant on just a few occasions.

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“The Nottingham Lion Saga”

Originally, it was the “Surrey Puma” which had caused all the fuss throughout the 1960s. The first possible sightings had been recorded in 1959, but by the mid-sixties, at Godalming Police Station alone, 362 reports were received over a two-year period.  And then, in August 1966, a former police photographer took a pale, blurry grainy snap which he claimed showed the Surrey Puma at Worplesdon, near Guildford. The photo was published in the “News of the World”, and showed an animal almost surprised by the fuss.
surrey puma original
It was enough to get the local plods out of the chip shop, though, and out on patrol…

 


They found little (if anything). Ten years later, in the very early morning of July 29th 1976, the focus was very much on the Queen of the Midlands, the beautiful City of Nottingham…
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Not on the stone lions on the Council House, the rendez-vous point of countless lovers since they were placed there by the Third Reich School of Architecture in the late 1920s…


Not even the local ice hockey team…..
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But rather on a country lane a few miles from the city centre. It must have been a very countrified area at the time, with lots of now disappeared open fields, and the grassy expanses of the airstrip at Tollerton, the rather grandiosely named “Nottingham Airport”. It was one of the two years of extreme drought in the mid-1970s, and it was….

“…shortly after 6am, 29 July 76, when two milkmen were delivering to a bungalow opposite the entrance to Nottingham airport on Tollerton Lane between Nottingham and Tollerton. Different accounts put it at  15 or 50 yards away from the men; they were in no doubt: “We both saw together what to us us was certainly a lion….its head down and its tail had a bushy end. It was walking slowly away from us.”

It is unclear whether it was a male or a female, but presumably they would have said “lioness” if that was what they had seen.

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It must have been difficult to be mistaken though even at fifty yards’ range.

“They watched it walk around the edge of a field, then called the police from the bungalow. By nightfall, the police mounted a huge search, with dogs, guns, loud hailers and a helicopter, in the Tollerton and West Bridgford areas. The police also said they had calls from people telling of the mysterious restlessness of their pets on the night of the 28/29th; and a local farmer at Clipstone, near Cotgrave, reported ‘strange paw prints’ on his land.”

As is often the case…

“The police found nothing. They checked zoos and private lion-owners within 100 miles, but ‘no-one appears to have lost a lion.’ They said they were taking at least 15 sightings seriously. The hunt hit a turning point in its second day when a sighting at Radcliffe-on-Trent turned out to be somebody’s Great Dane. At the same time a sighting came in from Bassingfield. One of the reports was from as far away as Norfolk by a couple who said they saw a lion in a lay-by at Lowdham (a country village near Nottingham) but did not report it they didn’t think they’d be believed. Yet despite these sightings, the police were getting disappointed by the lack of anything positive. As in the ‘Surrey Puma’ cases, the lack of any killed livestock, no pets missing etc as there would be if there were a lion conventionally on the loose. The milkmen were rechecked and both (David Crowther and David Bentley) were unshaken in their belief that they had actually seen a lion.”

How different from the present day. I cannot imagine that there are too many zoos or private lion-owners within a hundred miles of Nottingham nowadays. It is certainly strange, though, that the two milkmen were adamant about what they had seen…

“On the third day of the hunt, reports were still coming into West Bridgford, the nerve-centre of the operations. One caller heard something big crashing through Bunny Woods, and another heard something in a copse near Trent Lane church at East Bridgford. In fact, the police were obliged to maintain the alert.
Martin Lacey, a former Nottingham zoo owner, enters the fray, saying all the noisy activity has driven the lion into hiding, and offers the use of his lion-hunting Rhodesian ridgeback hounds.”

rhodesian
Just as the press were losing interest in the ‘Nottingham Lion’ the story receives a shot in the rump.

“John Chisholm, a doctor of Normanton-on-the-Wolds, near Tollerton, saw a large animal trying to break through some undergrowth to get to a stream on the evening of 1st Aug, while he was walking near his home. When he returned home he and his wife watched it leave the area from their upstairs window. Police said they were following up several other sightings in the same area.”

Curiouser and curiouser….

“2nd Aug police searching the A610 at Temple Lake, near Kimberley, found a large tortoise on the embankment. They were unable to trace any owner so they adopted it.”

The saga continued…

“The dailies for the next day (3rd) run the story of Dr.Chisholm’s sighting. Naturally in everybody’s eyes the fact that he is a deputy coroner makes the sighting more impressive and believable. (The police were) now 98% certain that there was an animal in the area…..

By the 6th Aug the lack of results was telling on the police. They issued a statement saying they no longer believed there was a lion at large despite 65 reported sightings in the last 8 days. They said that they proved to be mistakes, large dogs, and even a large brown paper bag.”

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After this negative statement, the police announce three more reports of it in the Plumtree and Normanton areas.

It is rather difficult to sort out this East Midlands X-file. If we accept that the two milkmen were not liars, however, and they had not just misidentified somebody’s Great Dane, it would make a lot more sense of they saw a lioness…

With the benefit of 38 years’ hindsight, I suspect that what they actually saw was

In other words, a common-or-garden “Alien Big Cat”

Nowadays, of course, nobody would think twice about claims of seeing a so-called “Alien Big Cat” in this area south of Nottingham, even though it is probably a lot more built-up than it used to be.

I recently saw a TV programme which claimed that there were two identifiable big cat territories centred on Rutland Water, giving a long list of the many different places in the area where animals had been seen. There have been suggestions, too, that these cats, whatever they may be, are making use of disused railway lines to travel around, possibly even penetrating into the suburbs of large cities, rather like foxes have done in the past.

Some ABCs are reported as melanistic…

black panther

But do be careful over the question of size, however…

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Otherwise your claims to the Nottingham Evening Post may leave you looking more than a little stupid…

tomcat
But it’s not all over yet… there are still lions out there, back in 1976…

“No sooner had the Nottingham mystery been killed off, it turns up over 70 miles away just south of York. On the night of the 9th Aug, Alan Pestall was on his way to his local walking down the moonlit main street of Thorganby, when a black shadow crossed in front of him, by the church. He thought it was a dog and spoke to it.

Then I realised it had a cat’s face and a long tail. It was about 3 to 4ft long and nearly 3ft high. Before I had a chance to run, it leaps over a fence and was away over the fields.’

He kept walking slowly to the pub, believing if he hurried or turned it would attack him. Police took his story seriously and mounted a search on the 10th, but found no sign of a lion.”

A police spokesman said

“We have no reason to connect this report with the recent sightings of a lion in Nottinghamshire.”

Almost thirty years later, it was the turn of Norfolk’s Boys in Blue to take on the Killer Menace of the Big Cats..

Thankfully, perhaps, Alan Partridge kept out of it.

 

The picture of the Rhodesian Ridgebacks is used by kind permission of Jackie Ellis whose website is http://www.zejak.co.uk/. Even if you don’t particularly like dogs, there are some lovely cute puppies there…and the bonus is that they’ll protect you from the Nottingham Lion!

 

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