|Photo Credit: Becky Thomas|
Wrapped up in hat, scarf and gloves I set out, my Wellingtons pressing on the virgin snow. Only it wasn’t virgin – someone, or something, had been here before. There was a set of paw prints stretching down the pavement towards the lake. Instinctively I followed them, wondering what they were: cat? (wrong shape); dog? (too big) – surely fox! They crossed the road and proscribed a circle on a neighbour’s lawn, then on to the grass in Lakeside and along the path. Approaching the gate I saw them divert across the sward and out onto the road. One set of tracks led out to the houses in Lakeside, and another came back. I followed them along the path to the weir and the foot of the lake. They diverged: one into the woods, and the other on to the fishing platform. They were definitely fox tracks, dainty, forward facing and – vitally – unaccompanied. Prints were to be found on the path leading to the playground, and though I lost sight of them in Laurel park and around the pavilion, I found them again passing the Interpretation Centre and onto Instow Road. This was too easy, the fox was following one of the routes I take of an evening! The trail went cold in the meadow – disappointingly, as that is where a den can usually be found in the summer – but was picked up again as I rounded the sediment pond at the Beech Lane end. The tracks crossed the road and along the footpath for a while, before cutting through a gap and up Allendale Road.
One, or possibly two foxes between them had taken the same circuit as I often do, before daybreak prompted them to seek cover. But then I’ve also seen them on summer evenings in the past, openly trotting along the paths a dusk. But now, when sightings of foxes are rare (compared with a couple of years ago), these tracks came as a pleasing reassurance of their continuing presence.
Edwin A.R. Trout