Friday, 30 September 2011

A day in the Forest of Dean

A trip to the Forest of Dean for my dog Roxy to have her hair cut meant that I had three hours to kill. I was keen to re-visit some of the haunts that I loved when I lived in the forest. Number one was Cannop Ponds, I was disappointed to see that the feeder table was missing. I can't understand why it was removed or by whom. If the Forestry have removed it then I hope they will replace it with something else, I remember that lots of folk used to stop and watch the birds, especially visitors to the forest. The top pond by the feeder station was looking lovely in the changing autumn colours.

Next I decided to visit the fallen tree at the arboretum. On route I was pleasantly surprised to come across a group of four young boar. I was pleased, yet worried by the fact that they were happily feeding/ playing/sleeping right by the roadside. This behaviour, in my opinion, is evidence of two things. One, they pose no threat to humans if approached quitely and carefully but not too closely. Two, they are unfortunately too trusting of humans, and not as wary as they should be.
 I may not be explaining myself too well. I stopped my car approximately 75 yards away from them and approached with my camera, 300mm lens attached. I moved slowly towards them. Initially they were a little unsure, moving 10 feet or so further away from me. But they did not run off and that is the important thing. They could not have known what my intentions were, yet they were not overly concerned about my close proximity. If you think of deer then you immediately think of an elusive and extremely shy creature. They would not let someone within 20 feet of them. They are happily established within the forest, both Fallow and the occasional Roe. They pose no threat and are not thought of in the same way as the boar. If someone walking their dog through the forest was lucky enough to see a deer it would most likely be as it disappeared into the forest having seen or heard them first.
Boar, on the other hand will, more often than not, stand or even approach to investigate a human who it happens across. We shouldn't be surprised by this. Domesticated pigs do not fear human contact, the boar are pigs after all.
There are many stories circulating the Forest of Dean where people have been chased and dogs attacked, this is clearly due to the unfearing nature of the pigs and the mistaken belief that they are dangerous rather than curious. The desire to protect off-spring should not be confused with a desire to attack humans.

I'm waffling and I dont mean to do that.

This was one of the four boar that I saw.

Above are three of the group, they were relaxed enough to lie down and by this time there were 3 people taking pictures of them and numerous cars stopping to admire them. One of the three taking pictures was a chap I'd met before, Alan Hooper. It was nice to meet up with Alan and I spent some time with him. Both Alan and I have had a few problems in our lives and it was funny how we both saw the forest as a tool to coping with those problems. Thanks Alan for a great chat.

There are ongoing wranglings between a group of boar supporters and the Forestry over the culling of boar within the FOD.  A friend of mine, David Slater is doing a lot of good work, along with others, to try and ensure that boar remain in the forest and are managed properly. I can't do his efforts justice on this blog but what I can do is suggest that you all, a) Have a look at his website, see how passionate he is about the boar and admire his wonderful photos, and b) Join his group, friends of the boar. I think there is a link from his blog but if not, try googling it.

I also met up with Bob Bushell at the Arboretum. Bob is a character who inspires me. He has a blog and a website (look in my links for a link). I would love to have the patience and drive that Bob has, If I did i might be able to get photos of the quality he produces. The photos of the buzzard that he has on his blog, the header is one of them, were taken in the FOD. I cannot remember having seen such amazing close ups of a genuinely wild Buzzard, check them out.

I enjoyed my day in the forest although I spent most of the time chatting rather than taking pictures but it was so nice to be back.