The Animals of Tehidy Wood

Growing up in mid Cornwall, there were two proper woodlands that I knew: Idless Woods, and Tehidy Woods. I hadn’t been back to Tehidy since I was at primary school, so with a forecast of 90% rain, we set off to explore. Tehidy is a huge country estate and considering its not-so-glam surroundings of camborne and redruth, it is actually very grand. The woods are part of a large estate, now run by the council. We parked, for free (unlike almost ALL the National Trust owned spots on the SWCP), and picked a route from the menu.

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We dodged children kicking footballs and entered the Wildlife reserve. Why is it that children have to bring a football with them everywhere? Aside from the footballs, the woods were calm. Our first sighting was a mother duck with five little ducklings in tow. We watched as the youngsters learnt to walk on a sand island in the middle of the lake. Ducklings have a Monty Python-esque way of walking, kicking one leg all the way up horizontally before splatting it down in front of them. One struggled and fell while the other paid close attention to the floor.

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Dogs are banned in the WILDLIFE ZONE, and because of this, the animals seem awfully relaxed. There were rooks everywhere, running up to our feet, almost begging for food. Apart from water birds, I’d never seen one beg before. Rooks have an incredibly long, menacing beak. For anyone who watched Muzzy in French lessons at school, I challenge you to deny the similarity between them and Corvax.

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On the lake, at least twenty swans floated lazily in the sporadic sunshine. We saw two cygnets, almost fully grown, still showing the odd grey feather. One swan made the classic heart shape with its wings folded behind it, but I couldn’t quite capture it, as it would turn away from the camera each time I went to take a photograph. Here’s a picture of a swan with a wonky neck and its foot sticking out instead.

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Now for the highlight of the walk. As well as the rooks being very relaxed in our presence, so were the squirrels. They seemed to be getting closer and closer to us, until one was so close I thought he was going to climb up Hayley’s trouser leg. I wondered if he would eat out of my hand, so I took a handful of seeds and offered them to him. THEN THIS HAPPENED.

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This friendly little ball of fuzz sat and ate out of my hand for around five minutes. He allowed me to tickle him, and even put his hands on mine to steady himself as he snaffled the remaining seeds from my palm. I felt quite a lot like Dr Doolittle. It was fantastic. His nose was warm, which I hadn’t expected. The other squirrels were friendly too, but none so much as this one.

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One cocky little chaffinch tried to join in the party, but the squirrels hadn’t left much for him. We carried on down the path, following the river to Otter Bridge. A man with binoculars had pointed us in that direction, as he had seen a band of Jays in the trees there and thought we might be interested. We were. When we got to Otter Bridge, we didn’t find any jays, but we did find a lot of noisy families and quickly lost hope of seeing anything. At this point, we left the main path and followed the river down through a jungle of bamboo and other overgrown plants. At the end there was a clearing with well constructed bamboo wigwam frame standing proudly.

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It felt bizarrely tropical in that part of the wood. I do love walking through woodlands that belong to large stately homes. They often have extravagant, exotic trees and plants collected from all of the world to show their wealth. We imagined a time when the entire woods might only have been enjoyed by one family, living in Tehidy manor. We left the jungle and rejoined the path, in the hope of finding some lunch. Suddenly, as we approached the lake, we saw a flutter of wings high up in the trees. It was the band of jays the binoculared man had told us about! One hopped from branch to branch, down to the floor to scavenge seeds, left by punters feeding squirrels.

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I hardly ever see jays, except from on the best of my adventures. I saw one on the morning of my M25-home walk. I saw one just yesterday as we drove to Porthcurno. In fact, the first photograph I took for this blog was a young jay in Crystal Palace Park. Jays are a good omen for me, but I’d never had the chance to watch them as I did here. All the animals are very used to people in Tehidy, making it a wonderful place for watching wildlife.

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