A close encounter of the wrong kind

One of the last surviving wild herds of deer in the Peak District on Big Moor

Leaves made the occasional rustle as they floated down to terra firma as I snaked my way through autumnal woods before heading out onto the high moors of White Edge in the Peak District. An overlooked ridge with fine views of the national park, set back from the popular Curbar and Froggatt gritstone escarpments.

The plan was to capture on video what scenic delights this area has to offer but I also had in mind to visit the adjacent Big Moor and explore it’s many hidden ancient secrets. Before then however, I was seeking a vantage point well away from potential onlookers to make my camp for the night. And what a camp this turned out to be – for all the wrong reasons.

A doe looks over at me – White Edge.

Feeling cold and a bit miserable, I retired to my tent early for the evening to get out of the cold, damp clag that had now set in on the moor. So, after a couple of warming drinks and food I got inside my sleeping bag and began my next journey into the land of nod.

It was while dozing off in my bed that I heard an unusual breeze and murmur inches from my head outside the tent. I figured it was just the wind playing around with the flysheet but moments later it repeated the same sound but with a different tone. Eyes open wide, I thought “What the hell is that? I’m sure I pitched the tent right”, when suddenly heavy thuds into the ground began to wonder around my home for the night and away behind a boulder nearby.

What happened next I will never forget. Deep guttural shouts began to emanate in the dark – loud ones too!

The hairs on my head now stood on end (and a few more turning grey) I bolted upright in my sleeping bag and realised a large stag was in my vicinity. Well, to be fair the word ‘vicinity’ is somewhat of an understatement – it was literally by my tent!

I have to admit my heart hadn’t thumped that hard since a friend of mine fell 30ft down a cliff face in the Lake District some years ago (he lived to see another day even though he was in bad shape). I stayed quiet as a mouse even though my ticky ticker was desperate to leap out of my chest and run off into the dark.

What do I do? Why is the stag there? What’s he up to? Should I fight or flee?

I had no idea in truth because it’s not a scenario I’ve had to deal with before.

Now, this may sound daft – but I quickly got dressed as the beast of the moor continued to bark and groan and got straight onto my phone and began asking for help and advice on Twitter. I didn’t want to call my wife in case she was fearful for my life and also it could attract the wrong response of the stag as I sat cooped up in my tent.

Bar the odd needless jokes from some, I did receive some careful and well judged responses from a number of folk including fellow blogger Alan Sloman. His thoughts were that I should get out of my shelter and let the stag know I was there. Hopefully he would then flee from my glowing green blob in the murk.

Good idea, I thought.

Other comments suggested I stayed put as I’ll never out run a stag if it were to attack. If something were going to happen it would’ve done so by now.

Maybe I had pitched on the stags favourite bit of grass?

Time passed by and the stag didn’t head off elsewhere – consequently I wasn’t so anxious to what possibly could be a serious confrontation with a large and potentially aggressive mammal out on the moors. I guessed along with others online that I was deemed to not be a threat and more a curiosity. Even so, it wasn’t a comfortable situation to be in and one I wanted to end sooner rather than later.

A good hour or so flew by, interrupted by the odd gust and rain shower when I realised the stag had finally moved on. What a relief, let me tell you!

I know I have a knack of getting up close to wildlife in the landscape – but this was really taking the piss.

The whole situation had been extremely unsettling and one I’ve learnt a great deal from. On reflection I suppose I shouldn’t have been up there given rutting season has not long finished. I knew there was a large herd of wild deer up on these moors – one of two surviving in the Peak District National Park in fact. I’m pleased I held firm and didn’t panic too. It wouldn’t have been nice, shall we say, for me to be injured or lost on the moor in the dark hours of the night.

It was also peculiarly extremely humbling to be in it’s presence. When I did venture out the tent later on I could smell it’s musty, sweaty fur lingering in the foggy air. I noted it’s tracks in the peat around my tent. I tried to fathom what the animal had been thinking and why it chose to stay by me for such a long while.

And to think I woke thinking “That’s a funny breeze”.

Either way, all ended well and I slept like a log that night with no other disturbances.

So, thank you to all those who made me laugh with ill judged, poorly timed and inconsiderate jokes on Twitter concerning my predicament and to those who were genuinely helpful with advice and suggestions. It was much appreciated, make no doubt.

As for the rest of the trip? Well, I’ll let these pictures tell that story….

Rab Neutrino 600 2012 model – on test. More of which in another blogpost.
Vaude Power Tokee UL tent – first trip out with this. I love how the main pole is attached to the shelter and how stable it is.
Stone circle on Big Moor. The area is essentially a Neolithic graveyard. 
Another stone circle on Big Moor.

Big Moor – big skies.
A look along Curbar Edge.

The day proved to be a bit misty – even so there was some scenery to delight the eyes.
Vaude Norrsken mattress on test. Comfy, warm and packs very small. Jury’s still out on this product.
Alone out on the moor.
Not ideal weather for me to be out filming – nevertheless it was certainly moody
The clouds eventually parted to reveal that wonderful autumnal light on the landscapes below.
Win Hill peeps over the moors.
Curbar Edge from Eyam Moor.
Home made for the night.
Two friends came along and joined me for the night up on the moors.
Dawn of another day in the Peak District.
I let the other two sleep a bit longer before waking them for sunrise.
Coffees on the go. Needed a hot drink too – really was quite cold this morning.
Before heading on home, my friend Geoff and I went filming on the moors. He showed me this wonderful ancient stone dotted with ‘cup marks’.
No one knows what they mean or why such tribes made these markings.
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