Tales of Bigfoot In The UK -The Boars Hill Beast (Oxfordshire)

In October 1991 the Oxford Star reported how local anglers Kevin Yates and Billy Ryman, had encountered a giant sloth-like creature swimming in a pool ‘between Sunningwell and Cumnor’. At the request of the anglers, the newspaper withheld the exact location of the sighting for fear of drawing unwanted attention to a favoured and private fishing spot. The article speculated that the creature was an escapee from some sort of exotic private collection, and appealed for further witnesses.
Some years later I was able to track down the anglers concerned and obtain further details of their sighting. The sighting, it turned out, had been at Youlbury Pool on Boars Hill.
Boars Hill is an elevated area of forest, country homes, farm and park land overlooking the City of Oxford, which sits some three miles to the north east. Youlbury Pool is a large, privately owned estate lake, surrounded by mature mixed woodland. In the early nineteen nineties the owners of the estate permitted local youths to fish the lily strewn lake, which was not only swarming with perch, roach and crucian carp, but was also home to a number of large and very wily common and mirror carp. By special arrangement, certain adults were also allowed to fish the lake from time to time.
The lake has changed hands since then, and is no longer accessible to anyone but the new owners. Hence the witnesses no longer felt the need to keep the location of their sighting a secret.
At the time of the encounter, Kevin and Billy were work colleagues of a local man who ‘minded’ the lake on behalf of the owner. The minder had obtained permission for the two men to spend a couple of days fishing the lake. Despite the season, keen carp anglers, Kevin and Billy jumped at the opportunity to tackle this decidedly uncommercial pool. They descended on it late one afternoon for an all-night session.
They set up their rods in a popular swim alongside a dilapidated boat house. With their bite alarms switched on, and thermos flasks to hand, the anglers settled down in the low slung chair beds, snug inside their bivvy, and settled down for a long and patient stretch.
There are two islands in Youlbury Pool. The two anglers were opposite the smaller island some one hundred and fifty meters from their swim: the small island was hardly bigger than two family cars, and yet supported a couple of large Scotts Pine tree. As night drew in, the bite alarms emitted the odd ‘pip’ as the carp, and perhaps the odd tench, knocked the lines, but no fish were forthcoming. The autumn night was cold, but very clear, and the moon and starts cast an eerie light across the lake. There was hardly a ripple on the surface. Aside from the distant call of a fox and the occasional splash of a fish, the lake was a haven of absolute tranquillity: there wasn’t even any traffic noise to disturb the peace.
At around two a.m Billy was woken up. He could hear the very gentle sound of splashing coming from somewhere on the lake. Listening carefully, Billy could tell that the splashing was coming from their side of the lake, but his line of sight was cut off by the irregular shore line and forest cover. Gradually the splashing, although still quiet, grew somewhat louder, and he began to see ripples disturbing the surface of the lake. What was responsible for the splashing appeared to be in the water and coming their way. Soon, it would be within his line of sight. Assuming it was probably nothing more than a swimming deer, an insomniac duck, or something equally unexpected, Billy nevertheless looked out with interest. Soon, the cause of the splashing came into view. Although most of it was underwater, it was clear that it was a very large creature. The head was above the surface, and it seemed to swimming in a frog like manner, diagonally across the lake towards the small island. Billy’s first thought was that it was a large man, but the stroke – although reminiscent of an exaggerated breaststroke – had a ‘desperate, dog-like rhythm.’ Unsure what to make of the creature, Billy quietly roused Kevin, and pointed to the swimming beast. Kevin had a pair of binoculars to hand – invaluable for checking the far shallows for carp activity – and he raised them to his eyes. By now, the creature had reached the shallows by the small island. Kevin and Billy watched as the creature stood up, waist deep in the water, and appeared to look stare down towards its unseen feet. As the anglers passed the binoculars between themselves, it was obvious that this was no human. They estimated that it was around seven feet tall. It was covered in long, dark hair, had a round face with dark eyes, and long thin arms. The two men both described it as looking like a giant, but highly mobile, sloth.
The creature stooped down and began picking small items from the lake bed and placing them carefully on the island. Kevin and Billy were able to watch the creature in silence for some ten minutes or so as it went about it’s curious task. Eventually, the creature climbed out of the water, onto the island, and shook itself, like a dog. It squatted down on its haunches like a ‘fat Buddha’, and began working on the pile of items which it had placed on the shore. It was now that the men realised what they were: freshwater mussels. The creature was opening them up with its fingers, sucking out the flesh, and then dropping the shells on the floor or in the water. As the creature neared the end of its meal, Kevin reached for his camera. Whilst he was loathe to disturb the animal, the men both knew that if they did not take a picture now, the chances are they would miss their opportunity. But as Kevin focussed the camera, the creature spotted the movement and froze, staring at the anglers.
Seizing his chance, Kevin took a picture. It wasn’t a great success. The camera, intended only for ‘trophy photos’ of the men holding giant carp, simply wasn’t designed for long distance flash photography. The flash illuminated only that immediately in front of the men, and it also ruined their night vision, leaving them unable to see the creature as it splashed frantically back into the lake and swam for the far shore. By the time the men had recovered their night sight, all they could see was the creature’s dark outline as it crawled out onto the far shore and made off into the woods.
Neither man slept for the rest of the night: whilst their patience was rewarded with a couple of medium sized carp, nothing could settle their confusion and agitation as they wondered at what they’d seen. At first light, they searched the edge of the lake and found numerous discarded mussel shells, some old, some more fresh. They mentioned it to their work colleague who minded the lake, and he, in turn, brought it to the attention of the owners. The owners apparently had no knowledge of any escaped pets. Drawing a blank, but determined to get to the bottom of what they’d seen, Billy contacted an acquaintance who wrote a small but regular fishing update in the sports pages of the Oxford Star. This acquaintance put Billy in touch with the journalist who subsequently covered the story.
For a couple of weeks after the story was published, the Oxford Star received a numerous letters from people who claimed to have seen something similar around the Boars Hill area. One particular letter which stood out was from a local Scout Master who reported how half his troop had seen the creature three years previously when they were camping at Youlbury Scout Camp, a large wooded complex immediately adjoining the estate on which Youlbury Pool is situated. According to the Scout Master, the troop had playing a ‘wide game’ at night when a trio returned to the camp out of breath and terrified, claiming that they had disturbed some sort of creature skulking around in the woods. None of the scouts were prepared to go back into the woods following their encounter, and the descriptions given by the boys at the time were almost identical to those later given by Billy and Kevin.
Whilst the creature was described by Billy and Kevin as ‘sloth-like’, it is in fact easy to rule out such a creature as having been responsible for the sighting. The world’s biggest living sloth – the maned three toed sloth (Bradypus torquatus) – is well under a meter tall, and, – as the name suggests, extremely slow. A highly specialised species, native to the high trees of the Brazilian rainforest, they are unable to stand or walk on the ground.

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