Coun­try Mouse

A rare gift

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country -

THE rhythm to fly-fish­ing—the swish of the rod, the pause and the hope—can trans­form me. Time turns as liq­uid as the flow. Last week, I was in this bliss­ful state on the River Bal­ly­nahinch in Con­nemara, when I was dis­turbed by strange mew­ings and move­ment in a clump of tus­socky grass be­side me. I put down my rod and went to in­ves­ti­gate and there, just 2ft in front of me, with its prick ears, chest­nut coat and creamy yel­low bib, was a young pine marten. It didn’t move, clearly un­der or­ders from its mother to stay put. The fish­ing had to wait.

Few UK mam­mals have been more bru­tally treated than the pine marten. Al­though it was once wide­spread, it was per­se­cuted to near ex­tinc­tion by game­keep­ers in the 19th cen­tury and the last one killed in the Lon­don re­gion was shot in Ep­ping For­est in 1883. Un­til two years ago, there had not been a ver­i­fied sight­ing of a marten in Eng­land for a cen­tury.

The to­tal pop­u­la­tion in Britain is es­ti­mated to be about 3,000, but, thanks to or­gan­i­sa­tions such as the Vin­cent Wildlife Trust, there are some signs of a gen­tle re­cov­ery. I’m very lucky to have seen one in the wild—most peo­ple never will. Fish­ing is truly a giver of gifts. MH

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