Beast of Box Hill
PUBLISHED: 13:20 09 March 2011 | UPDATED: 21:46 07 October 2014
Eight years of living on the hill and I have only seen this creature twice. The first time I was driving back up from a night out with friends. As I drove up the zigzag everything seemed normal. There was a faint late summer mist hanging low in the branches, but even that was not a reason to expect that anything untoward was about to happen. I had taken the second bend in the road when from down the bank a creature jumped and stood in the middle of the road. I stopped and stared through the windscreen at what looked like a wolf. It had the same lopping stance as one, but I knew in my head it was not possible. This was Surrey and although Boxhill was home to lots of wildlife, a badger was probably the most exciting thing you would see. I continued to state and caught its eyes, they were the shape of almonds and the colour of amber, it had to be a wolf. The long muzzle and the shaggy grey coloured fur. Was I so tired that I was not hallucinating? Suddenly the creature lunged toward the other side of the road, and as quickly as it had come down the bank; it disappeared into dense trees, further down. I sat in the car staring into the foliage hoping O would catch another glimpse of it but deep down I knew it had gone. I continued up the hill to my home. Just what on earth had I seen? The sight of that creature remained indelibly marked in my psyche.
I knew every inch of the hill. I hiked out every chance I got. I knew where all the badger sets were. I knew when there were fox cubs down on the donkey green. I followed the flight of the bats nesting in the old unused fort. Saw the roe deer down by the old brick kilns. There would be no way that a creature like that would escape my notice. I had spent time tracking in South Africa and had been taught how to spot wildlife, how to spot changed in the landscape that would reveal a cheetah or even rarer a leopard. I had not noticed anything untoward up here.
The National Trust had sheep grazing on the open slopes and an animal like a wolf would need to eat and sheep would be its ideal prey. Yet there had been no reports of attacks. And no half devoured carcasses had been found. That time of year-midsummer there were numerous day trippers to the hill and almost every inch would have been trampled upon, it would not have been able to hide. I reluctantly deduced that no, the mist had been playing tricks on me or perhaps tiredness from holding down two jobs had overtaken, yet the eyes seemed so real so wolf like.
Years went by and although I never forgot the appearance of the creature. I felt I would never see him again. The one autumnal say I saw him.
November was a glorious month for the fall up on the hill. I walked out on e Sunday to clear my head after the rather boozy drinking session the night before with some friends. O decided I would take the long walk that could be considered quite a challenge, which consisted of Box Hill, Mickleham Downs and Headly Heath. A good five-six hour walk, which would definitely work off a hangover.
Because the weather was so damp there did not seem to be that many hikers and of that I was relived. I am very much a solitary walker. As I walked up Juniper Hill, my heart started to pump and I was working up quite a sweat. I paused at one point to catch my breath. I could see through the russet colour of leaves a dark shape, an animal. I was immediately thinking roe deer, crouching down as low as I could I crept nearer and nearer.
It must have smelt me, because the creature looked up, it was no roe deer; I stared into the amber eyes of a wolf. For a split second we both were motionless. This was incredible; here I was in Surrey face to face with what was most definitely a wolf. His size confirmed my thoughts; he was slightly bigger then a German shepherd dog. I just couldn’t believe it. I gazed at the magnificent creature literally spellbound.
Suddenly the animal turned his body and with one agile jump was gone into the lower foliage of the golden beach tress. I stood back up to an upright position and looked around me. Out of the corner of my eye I saw hikers coming up the hill. Sitting down on a large upturned tree I drank from my water flask, trying to show my nonchalance as the two figures approached. The man and the woman politely acknowledged me and continued on their way toward where I had spotted the wolf.
As I followed the same route as the hikers, I looked down the slope and I saw a slight break in the landscape, a strange dark hump in the grass. Veering off the path I walked towards it, it was the partially eaten remains of a dear. I breathed in. This confirmed even more that there was a strange creature out here and he or she was very good at hiding of that much it was obvious. Two sightings in eight years! Would I have to wait another eight years to see him again?
I prayed that he would remain undetected, that none of the other enthusiastic nature lovers like me would spot him. And suddenly rather like the Loch Ness Monster, or Saskatchewan Man there would be wolf enthusiasts camping out with all their tracking gear and huge camera, desperate for a glimpse of the secretive animal.
From that day, my walks have been taken nearer to evening, when all the day trippers have packed up their picnic paraphernalia in their cars and descended down the hill. Would I ever get another glimpse of the allusive animal? Somehow I thought no, not again soon, anyway. Sometimes on a warm summers evening, walking back from the lookout post I hear rustling in the trees alongside of me and a low growl. I stop to peer in at where the noise is coming from, but I know in my heart it will only appear again when it is ready. For now I content myself in the knowledge that there is a strange wolf like creature living here and no one else knows about him. Yet.
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