Today I had 'Yeti' another slight Victor Meldrew Moment. I was in Tesco's buying some broccoli and realised that I was going to pay, by weight, for the stalk that I was going to cut off and throw away. What's the point of that I ask you?......Can you guess what I did before purchase?...I don't believe it!
My anger puts me in mind of 'Yeti another abominable tale'.......there's a pun there , trust me...! Quite a few years ago now I was carefully propping up the bar in a popular New Forest hostelry when I happened to bump into that elusive character, - Mr Tate. 'The very man!' says he. 'Why?' I asked,' has our treacle plant matured so soon?' 'Oh no,' said Tatie, ' but there are some strange 'appenings goin on 'ereabouts. It's all to do with some strange animal sightings.' The plot thickened.
I've heard of similar strange happenings on Exmoor in Somerset, where many people have reported the sightings of a large cat-like creature roaming the moors and sometimes damaging property. There are similar stories from Scotland and Yorkshire of large 'cats'.
Many folk believe that the cats could be a remnant from prehistoric times. Could it just be possible that these wild cats are still roaming free in modern Britain? And what has been sighted here in the New Forest? Is this the New Forest 'Yeti', yet again?
According to Tatie, several of his friends had spotted the Yeti walking home from the pub one night. (Sorry I'll re-phrase that last sentence) Taties friends were walking home from the pub one night when they spotted the Yeti ( I think I liked it better the first time around. I wonder what it drinks?) . I asked Tatie the obvious question; ' were your friends in an inebriated state, and if so, can we be sure that it wasn't pink elephants they were seeing?' After several seconds thought, Tatie informed me that they were all totally plastered! I rest my case!
Not being one to let sleeping dogs lie I decided to continue with my investigation. Tatie pointed out his friends at the other end of the room, trying to hold the bar still with a gentle leaning action. As we approached them I realised that they were probably in a similar state of intoxication as on the night in question. Determining this state is not easy as most foresters believe that if you can lie on the floor without holding on, you're not drunk!
Several drinks and lengthy conversations later, I found that I was none the wiser about the mystery. However, my old instinct told me that there was something amiss. If I used the information that I had gleaned from Taties' friends I should be looking for a seven foot hairy midget with two heads, eight feet and big ears. There was only one answer to my dilemma and consequently I instigated a fresh search for the thing,....after closing time of course!
In my book, seeing is believing and anyone who has ever seen four men doing the conga whilst looking for the New Forest Yeti certainly wouldn't believe it! After about half a mile or so the much talked about Yeti appeared, right on cue. Taties friends disappeared into the undergrowth shouting and screaming . Tatie and I were totally bewildered as we stood before the seven foot hairy midget with two heads, eight feet and big ears....because it looked remarkably like two small donkeys!
In the cool light of day (and sobriety!) the explanation becomes obvious . What we had come across in the dark was a pair of New Forest donkeys! As Tatie pointed out 'at one time there were hundreds of 'em'. They were bred specifically for the Forest, they were smaller than normal donkeys. Why were they smaller you may well ask? The answer is easy. They bred these small donkeys for use in the nearby treacle mines, didn't they?
The New Forest has some pretty unique inhabitants, here I'm talking about the animals. The Forest is 900 years old, created by King William the First in 1079 as his private hunting ground, it's around 141,000 acres and the animals who graze here have all the rights. They are owned by foresters who are allowed to graze them here (it's called forest rights and controlled by the Verderers and their court) When you travel through the New Forest on the roads you have to remember that the ponies, donkeys, cows and pigs (the pigs are put out in the autumn to eat the acorns, the acorns kill New Forest ponies if they eat them but not the pigs, it's called pannage. and the right goes back for many hundreds of years) always have the right of way. You have to stop for them as they roam around grazing. In 2009 113 mares(41 killed) and 46 foals(24 killed) were injured in road accidents. More are actually killed by local people driving too fast than tourists.