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 final runners up from each category. We hope you’ve enjoyed all the stories!

PICTURE: Badger by Tony Morris licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0, tiny.ccmelesmeles

Runners up adults

1:31 am 

By Clive Martin-Ross

I was leaning, hanging out of, a window at my mother’s, 1:30 in the morning having an extra reefer before sleeping on the cushions as per usual. Then out of the corner of my eye, I see a badger shape moving. The badger’s path was well-worn and went right under where I was a-hanging out. Along comes the badger, sticking to the path. A taxi draws up, lights and all, along with conversation. The badger, while semi-shielded by various bushes, continues until suddenly stopping directly under my outstretched arm. Smouldering object. Tell-tale smell.

So. Then the badger looks up at me while I look down at the badger. Our eyes meet and we just stare into each other’s for some seconds. I reckon eight, for no other reason than that I was there. Just looking at him, looking at me, looking at him.

Then he broke off, bothered by the taxi, turned round on the lawn and re-joined the pathway until it disappeared behind the end of the neighbour’s wall.

That was it. 1:31 am. 

Runners up Under 18s

Wings to another world

By Clara Bates (age 12)

I sat down. The coarse grass brushed against my legs, the wind caressed my head and my hair whipped round me. I was alone. I was perfectly still. It was just the world and me. The water glistened down by the shore, the flags on the boats waving to the song of the gentle cawing that the gulls made. 

A sea of green stretched before me; sparkling emeralds winked like stars as a dark shape swooped down from the ever-lasting sky. He stopped, stared and stood. His eyes were the same colour as the grass around him, his head swept into his sleek back. His slightly mottled feathers twitched gently in the wind. He stepped closer. It was as if I could read his mind; he was curious. 

He wanted to search me, wanted to understand me. His kindly face delved deeper and deeper into my soul. His eyes surreptitiously swept over my body. He stepped closer. He wanted to play, to have company. I became his partner, his companion. We stayed like this for a while: me, sat there, hardly daring to breathe and, him, stood, hardly flinching whenever I turned my head.

“He changed the way I view seagulls now”

Suddenly, out of nowhere, came a black dog, bounding along towards the seagull and me. In an instant, he turned and flew. I watched him right until I saw him perch on a faraway roof and disappear over the apex.

He changed the way I view seagulls now. I believe them to be intelligent, trustworthy and, perhaps most importantly, kindly. I may never be lucky enough to experience anything quite as magical as that in the whole of my life and I hope that you will understand the immense joy that this moment brought me.

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 1st Runners up here

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