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Creatures on the Loose
By Nick Redfern
March 28, 2009
Phantom Wallabies of the British Isles
Although the subject of cryptozoology is predominantly one focused upon the search for unknown animals, and those beasts that science tells us cannot exist – such as Bigfoot, the Yeti, the Chupacabras, Ogopogo, and the Loch Ness Monster – the subject also encompasses so-called “Out-of-place animals.”
In other words, regular animals seen in places they have no business inhabiting.
And there is perhaps no better example of this than the so-called “Phantom Wallabies” of the British Isles – where I spent my formative years, before moving to the United States to live.
Needless to say, one does not have to be a genius at all to realize that the wallaby is not, and most certainly never has been, indigenous to jolly old England – but that hasn’t stopped people seeing such creatures roaming all across the land, however.
And, of course, this leads to the most important question of all: if such creatures are indeed roaming the wilds (and, sometimes, the not-so-wild parts) of the British Isles, then how on Earth did they get there? The answer is (or, rather, the answers are) highly intriguing.
One particular area where wallabies have been seen on regular occasions is a place called the Peak District, which can be found in the county of Derbyshire, England.
In the 1930s, a number of wallabies made good their escape from a private-zoo in the English town of Leek, Staffordshire, before making their stealthy way to the high and sprawling green hills of the aforementioned Peak District.
Sightings of the creatures were quite regularly reported now and again in the years and decades that followed – particularly as the colony grew in size. However, when Britain was hit by a particularly devastating and hard winter in 1962/1963, the colony’s numbers were massively decimated - as a result of the animals’ inability to survive the harsh weather, of course.
Indeed, estimates suggest the once-thriving colony was reduced to barely six in number. However, as nature fortunately demonstrates time and time again, the colony pulled itself back from the catastrophic brink of extinction, eventually increasing its numbers to around 60 by the mid-1970s.
Sadly, there have been no sightings of the Peak District wallabies since 2000. However, reports have surfaced in the relatively nearby county of Staffordshire: first at the village of Barton-under-Needwood in 2002, and then on the sprawling mass of forest called the Cannock Chase, when one such animal was seen bounding across a tree-shrouded, shadowy road late one night in the summer of 2005.
Similarly, Inchconnachan, an island situated in Scotland’s Loch Lomond, has its own colony of wallabies, which was introduced there in the 1920s by Lady Arran Colquhoun. And smaller colonies can be found in Ashdown Forest, Sussex, and on the east-coast of England in the county of Norfolk.
In addition, noted British cryptozoologist Jonathan Downes has uncovered reports of wallabies seen in the desolate wilds of Devonshire (where the Sherlock Holmes novel, TheHound of the Baskervilles was set) in the late 1970s.
Then there is the story of Alice Morris, who claimed a close-encounter of the large and hopping kind in England’s Lake District (which can be found in the northern part of the country) in 1955. In this case, Alice says that the creature shot across the road late one night in two mighty leaps as she and her husband were returning to their then-home in the town of Oban.
But, perhaps, the strangest of all stories surfaced in 2007, when nothing less than a fully-grown albino wallaby was seen – and photographed, no less – near Olney, Buckinghamshire, England by a witness named Stacey Purdy.
Interestingly, what was very probably the same animal was seen two years earlier by a man named Paul French, as he drove through woods at nearby Hanslope – only approximately five miles from where Stacey Purdy had her own close encounter.
And there are other such reports, too: from at least seven other locations in Britain (most of which are dominated by thick forest and woodland, unsurprisingly) where there are alleged to be substantial wallaby colonies that, by all accounts, are both thriving and multiplying very well indeed.
Just as is the case with the mysterious big-cats, wild-wolves, pythons, armadillos, crocodiles, alligators, and rattle-snakes that have reportedly been seen throughout the length and breadth of the British Isles, so the wallaby should not be seen blissfully roaming the nation by both night and day.
Yet, it is – and on a distinctly regular basis, too.
And so, my own personal view is that – as with all of the other out-of-place creatures and critters, too – we should firmly embrace its presence, which surely only enhances the natural wonders of the nation’s wildlife and countryside.
Long may the wallaby call Britain home!
Nick Redfern is a full-time monster-hunter and the author of four books on the subject: Three Men Seeking Monsters; Memoirs of a Monster Hunter; Man-Monkey; and his latest book: There’s something in the Woods.