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
  • Get to the point
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

Ashdown Group: Account Payable Assistant - SW London

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Account Payable Assistant - SW Londo...

Recruitment Genius: Bathroom Showroom Customer Service / Sales Assistant

£14560 - £17680 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Even though their premises have...

Recruitment Genius: Finance Manager

£44000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Marketing company based in cent...

Recruitment Genius: IT Installation / Commissioning Engineer - North West

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An IT Installation / Commission...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence