Perpetual birdsong is the order of the day as I walk down every hedgerow in this part of The Cotswolds. All the small birds you happen to come across are all busy feeding their fledglings with mouthfuls of insects. The between time of this frenzied feeding activity they can be heard in the tops of the Hawthorn and Blackthorn bushes singing out across the landscape in a joyful and triumphant fashion, as if signalling to all observers that with effort and tenacity it is possible to accomplish all.
Alarming news this week that was brought to my attention through the observations of the Coopers and a telephone call from my lifelong friend and great gamekeeper Nimrod, on activities of deer poachers once again in the area. Nimrod arranged to pick me up at 7pm on Thursday evening to show me what he and the Coopers had discovered.
Thursday night 7pm I was waiting out in the garden as Nimrod pulled into the drive in his Land Rover and soon we were heading out across country towards the Foxton Estate. After about ten minutes we were driving down a track towards the river at the top end of the valley where it sweeps up to the Tiger Forest. This was the Abraham’s Estate. “This is a bit off your beat,” I said to Nimrod. We were approximately two and a half miles from my Badger sett and quite a few miles from Nimrod’s Foxton Estate.
“I’ve been asked to look into these recent events by Lord Foxton who is great friends with the Abrahams’”
He pulled the Land Rover up at a very thick hedge where we both got out. Down at the base of the hedge in a recently disturbed patch of cow parsley Nimrod was looking down on to entrails, guts and a deer’s head. But the most alarming thing of all was the almost fully formed foetus of a fawn. This deer had been slaughtered and butchered on the spot.
Deer poaching is always sad but poaching deer when this near to giving birth is unforgivable. Just a total and utter waste of life. The look upon Nimrod’s face mirrored my own. The alarming reality of this situation were that these poachers were of the worst kind. They were either totally ignorant of the life cycle of the deer or just didn’t care and no self-respecting poacher would ever try and claim a deer this time of the season, for the deer are about to have their fawns or they have already given birth and the fawns are now dependent on their mother’s milk.
“Allan!” Nimrod barked, “These poachers have got to be stopped.”
“Have you informed the police?” I asked
“Lord Foxton and the Abrahams’ have. We believe the vehicle is a double cab, green Toyota Hi-Lux.”
“I’ve seen it in the distance whilst down fishing.” I then went onto ask Nimrod what he believed they were killing the deer with, was it a .22 rifle? Nimrod didn’t answer the question but walked over to the back of his Land Rover where he retrieved a plastic Morrison’s shopping bag and handed it to me. I put my hand in and pulled out three bolts.
“Crikey! They are using a cross bow.” The weapon that no gamekeeper or countryman ever wants to see in the countryside. A tool used to despatch game only used by total morons. Having seen the bolts the situation was all the more serious and a matter of urgency that we were to rid these poachers from this part of The Cotswolds as soon as possible.
We got back into the Land Rover and there was pretty much silence all the way home. Nimrod pulled up to my house. “I can count on your help then?”
“Defo!!” was the reply, “Green double cab Hi-Lux.”
“That’s right,” replied Nimrod nodding.
As I entered my kitchen Jackie was sewing a patch on her favourite pair of jeans. I filled her in and within seconds the darning needle was down and she was on the phone to the Coopers, telling them to keep away from the Badger sett until the problem with the poachers and their crossbow had been sorted out. As Jackie put the phone down she then asked if the police had been informed. I replied that they had and that I would be going out for the next few evenings to see what I could see. Jackie then made a few sandwiches and put into my old dinner bag and I was soon out of the house heading across the fields towards The Tiger.
As I sat in the hedgerow looking down back through the valley from The Tiger, the beauty was awe inspiring. I could see a small herd of Roe deer in the lush grass down towards the river, a couple of Barn Owls and everything was tranquil and peaceful. But if I were to see the poacher’s truck, how on earth would I deal with it? The time now was 2am and I decided that the poachers were not going to show this night, so I headed home.
The following night, Friday night, it was lashing down with rain, it had been raining all day. After tea I made sure my mobile phone was fully charged when Jackie turned round and asked, “Surely, you are not going out on a night like this?”
“This is just the sort of night if I was poaching deer, I would be out in.” Jackie put half a pork pie into a bag. The time was 10:30pm when I left the house, I then made my way down to the garden shed where I picked up a can of petrol which I normally use for my mower. I shook it, it was half full. That should be more than enough. I then trudged across the fields making my way to the Tiger. The rain was driving down and it was being pushed across from West to East by quite a persistent bellowing blow but the temperature on this May night was not cold.
As I walked towards the Tiger I was thinking more and more of a vantage point from where I could see as much of the countryside and the routes into it as I could. The spot that came to mind was Hangman’s Stone. A place where many a Highway man and thieves were hung in years gone by for their butcherous exploits.
As I sat on an old beech trunk by the side of the stone, the rain was still cascading down from the skies. I patiently waited. Longing to see some lights or any sign that told me that the poachers were in the vicinity. I looked at my phone and the time was 1:20am. I was sopping wet through and I was now beginning to think it was going to be another ‘no show’. As I raised up off the trunk and picked up the half gallon of petrol, I saw some lights towards the North side of the Tiger. I quickly hurried around the bottom of the vast woodland to greet it. I was soon trotting towards it and much to my delight the lights were coming down around the bottom of the wood towards me. I went into the woodland underneath a thick canopy of beech leaves. There I stopped and watched the lights coming ever closer. The truck then stopped and the lights were speedily extinguished. Four hundred yards from where I was stood. I had to get nearer quickly. As I walked through the wood trying to make as little noise as possible it swiftly became apparent, this filthy, wet night was going to help me a lot more than it was going to help them. The rain was dripping off the trees and the wind was whistling overhead. I was now sixty yards from the vehicle and it was a green, double cabbed, Toyota Hi-Lux. There were three men, they were unloading large torches and then I watched as one of the men leant into the back of the truck and retrieved two crossbows. I felt a treacherous tingle run down the back of my neck as I saw him hand one to his colleague. They were all dressed in green camouflage clothing. I stood there under the beech cover and watched intently as they headed out from the Tiger towards the lush green river meadows where I had seen the deer the night before. As I watched them go out of sight I walked towards the green Hi-Lux truck picking up a large stone. I noticed there were false number plates stuck over the original license plates. “That is why you are so seldom caught,” I thought. I smashed the windscreen with the stone, then I smashed the side windows and the back window of the truck and made sure that the truck was completely empty of life. I doused the inside of the truck with petrol, stood a few yards back and went to strike a match which went out as quick as it was struck. I walked over to the truck and pulled out a seat cover, which was stinking of petrol. I got a stick from the wood and rammed it into the seat cover, turned it away from the prevailing wind and knelt over it with a box of matches. Hair singingly quick, the ignition was instant. I turned and threw the stick with the cover on it into the truck. A ball of flame instantly evolved. “That will give you something to think about.” Then I hurriedly turned on my heels and I made my way up through the Tiger forest to the North boundary. Once through the Tiger forest, I rang Nimrod. I told him that I had bumped into the poachers’ truck and I had experienced spontaneous combustion of a green, double cabbed, Toyota Hi-Lux truck and if the police got to the bottom of the Tiger forest with haste they would stand a damn good chance of catching them.
Saturday morning, a visit from the Coopers, Nimrod and Lord Foxton. All resulting in my behaviour being described as antics from Attila the Hun. They just did not believe my explanation on spontaneous combustion and for a few minutes I felt like Vladimir Putin, the Russian President who was accused this week by our own Prince Charles of behaving like Adolf Hitler. Never mind, onwards and upwards, please watch my short film of my badgers being visited by deer.
Badgers in woodland relaxed and undisturbed.