Wild boars of Kent cause havoc in the hop gardens Wild boar hunt

A CHILL wind whistled through the trees, whipping up the autumn leaves carpeting the forest floor. In the dense undergrowth, rustling noises could be heard. Was that a faint grunting in the distance?

Here, deep in woodland on the Kent and East Sussex border, lurks a colony of wild boars that has become the scourge of farmers. The boars are blamed for ravaging fields and wrecking crops in search of food. Some say that they even snatch lambs by moonlight.

A study published by the Ministry of Agriculture earlier this week estimated that about 100 of the creatures are roaming the area, with another 20 or so in Dorset. It plans to commission more research before deciding whether they pose enough of a health risk to justify turning a shotgun on the lot of them.

Jenny Farrant, who owns Great Knelle Farm in Beckley, near Tenterden, laughs hollowly. "If I had my way, they'd all be machine-gunned," she says. "But it's too late, the population is way out of control."

Inside the farmhouse, visitors are greeted by the baleful gaze of a trophy wild boar head hanging on the wall. Sadly, it is no deterrent to surviving members of the species, who have been plaguing the Farrants for the past eight years."They've rooted up our hop garden; it looked like the Somme," she says. "And they've taken lambs in the night. All you find in the morning are little hooves."

Beckley Garage is regularly called upon to repair vehicles damaged by boars that can weigh up to 300lb. "If a car is in collision with a boar, the car comes off worse," says Mrs Farrant. Down the road, John Taylor, of Little Harmers Farm, is dejected. "They rooted up a six-acre maize field," he says. "There's no point replanting it because they'll just come and dig it up again."

The National Farmers' Union wants the ministry to order a cull of the boars, which were hunted to extinction in this country in the 17th century. The current population originates in the 40 or so commercial farms that rear them for their succulent meat. Many scampered to freedom when the 1987 hurricane flattened fences.

The NFU's concern is that they mate with domestic pigs, spreading disease. Cross-breed feral boars are now common; the Farrants keep a crossed Tamworth/wild boar called Wilhemina as a pet. The ministry refers to them as "free- living boars", which is not so far from the truth, according to Isobel Bretherton, of the NFU's south-east region.

"When the mood takes them, they are utterly indiscriminate," she says. "They lift up fences with their snouts, plough straight ahead and mount the nearest female in sight."

There have been several reports of boars attacking humans. Although shy and reclusive, they can turn nasty when cornered.

Some environmentalists want to reintroduce a native species. Mrs Farrant snorts. "It would be nice to reintroduce brown bears and wolves too, particularly into the Home Counties," she says, raising her eyebrows heavenwards.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashion
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all