Sunday, 18 March 2007

The Bluewater 'big cats'.

Bluewater. An oasis of commotion. A busy, bustling attraction near Greenhithe, that attracts millions of shoppers each year, who flock for the brand names, spill into the food courts and scurry into the cinema complex. Bluewater has something for everyone. A chaotic paradise for anyone seeking the designer labels and newest trendy furniture. Yet, before Bluewater, the quarry and its surrounding areas were fields, and just a few miles away at Dartford and Gravesend large cats were haunting the winding lanes and open fields, and they still do, Bluewater is merely a minor obstacle which the felids simply walk around as they travel from A to B within their vast territories.

Sceptics still scoff at the thought of a 'big cat' roaming the nearby roads and steep inclines which flank Europe's largest mall, and the management continue to keep one eye on the newspaper reports, hoping they'll die down and the roaming cats won't frighten their precious consumers away.

These cats have always been here, it's no mystery. Bluewater may, by day be a haven for handbags and gladrags, coffee drinkers, trends, fashions and commercialism, but by evening the shadow of night falls upon the centre, blacking out its car parks, enveloping its ponds and surrounding undergrowth in darkness, sufficient cover for any roaming feline form to slink into in the hope of observing the water fowl or rabbits which scurry from the banks. It's as if the management want the whole situation to be a hoax, when the facts are, sightings around the complex have been reasonably frequent, but the press flock there and expect these cats to be sitting there, waiting to have a photo taken. Yet, for the couple of elusive animals seen within the vicinity, Bluewater is simply a regular stop-off or route of crossing, pathways which they've taken long before Bluewater was built in 1999.

So, just what are the details concerning the Bluewater 'big cats'....

Well, the press have a tendency to tie a certain creature or 'beast' to a specific location as they tend to like the ring to the name, and the drama of the headline. The 'beast of Bluewater' may sound exciting to the press, but it remains an inaccurate depiction of a situation that dates back many, many years.
Due to the lack of knowledge shown by reporters, whose job, or so I thought, was to present facts, animals such as those within the vicinity of Bluewater attract unwanted attention, as does the mall. The facts are, any large cat within fifty miles of Greenhithe could well be the same cat that has been seen in the chalky alcoves of the precinct. Gravesham, Dartford, Bean, Swanscombe, Sidcup, Swanley, and the fringes of London have all featured heavily with regards to sightings of cats, so any one of these animals could become a Bluewater 'beast'. Unfortunately, over the time the press have come to believe that such an animal probably has a territory of around three sq miles, and only prowls the immediate quarries, woods and roads surrounding the shopping centre. This kind of inaccuracy seems to be a running theme with cat sightings throughout the UK.

Since Bluewater became a blob on the landscape, sightings of both puma and black leopard have been numerous. The usual flaps have occurred, but nothing to suggest that large cats remain in the area for long periods. Sightings from neighbouring towns such as Gravesend and Dartford have, however, been consistent, proving that abundant populations of cats exist on those areas, and branch out within their territories. Lynx have also been observed in these areas although sightings are less consistent, simply due to the fact we are dealing with a smaller animal.

The following link is a shortcut to my BBC Bluewater page pertaining to the sightings:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/kent/content/articles/2007/03/05/big_cats_feature.shtml






1 comment:

thome179 said...

Hi Neil

Good post. I had a strange encounter with a big cat about 4 years ago in Swanscombe. Stood in front of my car as I rounded and bound over a fence into Swanscombe Gorge.

I can be contacted on thome179@googlemail.com should you want any further information.

many thanks


Tony Homewood