Earlier in the year, local arts company Dens & Signals teamed up with HIP to launch an Animal Encounter Story Competition. We asked readers to tell us about their real-life moments of connection with wild animals. We had a great response: people really care about this kind of unexpected encounter with animals, and here in Hastings we’re lucky to have a lot of amazing urban wildlife…

There were two categories, one for adults and one for under 18s. Here are the first runners up from each category, we’ll publish two more in
the next edition.

Runners up under 18

Fox Chops

By Hazel Godwin (aged 7)

My name is Hazel, when I was younger I lived in Wellington Square. On summer nights often we would see a fox in the car park outside of our back door. We called him Fox Chops. There was a curry house near us, the man from the curry house fed Fox Chops meat whenever he came out. We gave him biscuits for his pudding.

He looked very healthy and strong and his tail looked like a feather duster to sweep the bushes. I loved watching him. Sometimes we would see him basking in the sun on the cliffs. I hope he had a happy family and lived in the castle.

Runners up adult

Little Sister

By Carole Segal

It was time for the three young seagulls to go to the beach for their first fishing lesson. They had learnt to fly, or so the parents thought. They were wrong. They took off from their nest on the roof but the third fledgling didn’t make it. Not quite able to fly yet, she dropped like a stone, luckily, on to the lawn, where she sat sadly watching her family disappear seawards.

Fortunately we found her straight away and put her safely on the patio with a bowl of water and some pieces of fish, which were appreciated. There she sat until her family returned and made a great noise and fuss over her before returning to their nest, parents keeping an eye on her. 

Next day big sister arrived on the patio to take care of her (and hopefully get fed as well) but this was still parents’ job and they only received fresh water. Big sister made herself comfortable, collecting many objects; nails, wooden clothes pegs, sticks, dry grass and placing these in a circle around them both, like a wide pretend nest, but Little Sister was naughty, picking them all up, dumping them in a pile and sitting down beside them. Big Sister patiently took them back and spread them out again, each time. They snuggled together to sleep. 

A couple of days later they were joined by Big Brother (males are broader, particularly across the shoulders, neck and head). He took foraging to another level, finding various larger items including dead flowers and a particularly interesting piece of laminate, which he admired greatly. Of course naughty Little Sister tried to take these, but even when they had a tussle, he was very gentle. He laid out his finds as Big Sister had done, a few times, thanks to Little Sister. When they received a much-needed fresh water refill the two bigger ones splashed the cool water over their heads. Little Sister watched for a moment, then copied. They all snuggled together at night and stayed for some time after Little Sister learned to fly competently as the patio nursery was a safe, comfortable place for them and one or other of their parents was always watching from the roof.

As summer came to an end, they left, but we had enjoyed our observations from the kitchen balcony and were left with a new respect and affection for seagulls. 

If you have an animal story but missed the competition, we’d still love to hear it. Email: [email protected] and let us know what happened. But more importantly, why not tell the story to your friends, by phone to relatives who are socially isolating, or perhaps you could draw a picture for your window?

Read the winning stories here
Read the 2nd Runners up here

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