Down in the woods, autumn is breathing her frosts and mists across the leaves and grass. Bracken is turning orange, the beech trees are golden and copper leaves and nuts lie strewn across the forrest floor. But among the oaks, you would hardly notice her presence. Their leaves still flutter green in the light, and the grass around their roots is lush and soft.
We wandered in the warm whispering breeze among the pools of shadows, becoming vaguely aware of a presence. A growing feeling of being watched was creeping up my back, and looking to either side of the path, hoping to see some glorious mushrooms, I began to notice dark scars in the grass. A growing sense of unease had my nerves tingling, as the earth looked more and more uprooted. Then a dark shape shot out from the bracken crossing the path behind me, trailing snorts in the breeze.
The dogs suddenly glued themselves to my calves, and as we turned the corner slowly, we saw the scattered herd of wild hairy pigs, bathed in late sunlight. They were happily truffling and snouting the earth, oblivious of our presence, and I sneaked closer under the cover of the oaks and the bracken, but the dogs were jumpy. They were restless and uneasy, and then from behind another group led by a huge black sow, came swaying down the path. I retreated slowly at first, but with a gathering pace, as I was escorted back out of the ancient oak woods, by this mama and her piglets.
The size of the pigs was what really surprised me, even the babies were bigger than the dogs, and they certainly used their presence to state clearly that this was their spot.
I had last seen these pigs, enclosed at the other side of the woods in late spring, and they were tiny and cute and full of wild squeals. Now their brooding presence was filled with strength, and the dogs were very nervous. It was lovely to stumble upon creatures who had been at home beneath the oaks far back into the shadows of history, but I was left with a sense of awe and respect. Hearing them snuffle and snort among the whispering oak leaves felt right, like a sound I had heard a million times before, and yet it was new for me.It was as though nature had reclaimed some space, pushing back the civilised edges a little, leaving the woods feeling less predictable and a little dangerous. I probably won’t be sitting dreaming away hours in the shade of these old oaks again, at least for a while, as long as the pigs are calling it home, but they add something glorious and wild which makes my heart beat a little faster.
Ancient guardians of the woods, linked with immortality, death and the dark earth mother herself. Held sacred by Druids, hunted by kings and feasted on from giant cauldrons, pigs and boars have myths and symbols reaching far back into our past. From the shadows of night the moon and her boars have long guarded the earth.