Monday, 25 May 2015

West Suffolk big cat field expedition

I went to see some big cat sighting locations in West Suffolk (Newmarket, Red Lodge, Mildenhall Woods, West Stow and Culford) for myself on Saturday, and looked for possible big cat field signs. The people of West Suffolk are much more sceptical about big cats than those in East Suffolk, it seems, although the explanations they offered for big cat sightings were beginning to sound a bit like "ignited marsh gas and the planet Venus" from Men in Black. You'll have to buy a copy of Mystery Animals of the British Isles: Suffolk when it comes for more detail!

Scattered feathers in the King's Forest, "inconclusive", as Natural England would say.

Old West Suffolk County Council initials on Red Lodge bridge, right on the Cambridgeshire border. (Suffolk was once two counties, West Suffolk, with its country town at Bury, and East Suffolk.)

Evil freshwater mermaid on a tattooist's sign at Mildenhall, just up the River Lark from where freshwater mermaids were said to live at the Mermaid Pits at Fornham All Saints. They were clearly tales made up to stop children playing in rivers and ponds.

"Welcome to Suffolk" sign at Newmarket, where Suffolk is at one point a corridor a couple of hundred yards wide, with Cambridgeshire on both sides. The sun has leached out the sunburst symbol over the water at the bottom of the logo.

Looking for field signs of big cats in woodland in Red Lodge. There are a couple of bags of possible big cat poo in my freezer - they had a lot of hair in them, but possibly not enough (deer) hair for it to be a big cat's. Analysis follows.

I wish I had more time to linger in Mildenhall Woods, where a couple saw a big cat in September 2014. If I were a big cat, it's the sort of place I'd hang out.

The ghost of one of horseracing history's most famous jockeys, Fred Archer, riding on his favourite horse, Scotch Pearl, has been seen galloping on the exercise tracks in Hamilton Lane, Newmarket, not far from this equestrian bin in the High Street. Archer, unusually tall for a jockey, shot himself after the death of his wife and probably as a result of his depressing weight loss diet.

Some of the 3,000 thoroughbred racehorses exercised every day at Newmarket, some are worth £1 million. They seem to panic easily - a paper bag caught in the wind will set them off, according to a local Town Councillor and Justice of the Peace, the first farrier to serve as a magistrate since the Farrier's Company records went up in smoke in the Great Fire of London. He also said some jockeys are 7kg below their healthy bodyweight, so it's "No wonder some of them go off the rails."

The River Lark is a trickle at the bottom of a ditch where it passes within 300 metres of the West Stow Anglo Saxon Village museum. It was down by the river where a visitor reported seeing a "puma" two years ago. The staff member I talked to thought it was a misidentified muntjac.

Russet Drive, Red Lodge, scene of a 2009 big cat encounter.

Rather big cat-friendly "derelict land" at the back of Russet Drive, Red Lodge, where Jackie Ellerton saw a "huge and spotty... feline creature” twice the size of an ordinary cat early one morning in 2009.

Fields immediately outside Newmarket as you leave on the Newmarket-Dullingham train. Someone saw a black big cat running alongside the train as if left Newmarket in January this year. "Are you yanking my chain?" asked the sceptical train conductor when I mentioned this. He suggested a misidentified black racehorse, "there are plenty of them."

A panoramic view of Suffolk at its narrowest point, on the Eastern edge of Newmarket along the Bury Road (A11), showing Cambridgeshire to the north (on the left) and to the south (on the right).

No comments: