My walk was almost finished as I crossed the stile at Thames Head
and started back up the Fosse Way to the lay-by where I had parked
my car. I stopped looking for wildlife and, instead, kept my attention
on the speeding traffic, which paid little regard to a lone walker.
This was a weekday afternoon and they had customers to see, children
to collect from school, goods to deliver. I had to look after
my own safety, but the fox was unexpected. I doubted the first russet
movement in the long grass on the roadside bank. It couldn't be
an animal. As I approached, the frightened cub made himself as small
as possible -
"Please, don't let that man see me".
His eyes met mine with a nervous appeal for clemency. He was trapped. The matted grass formed an impenetrable barrier too high for his legs. Behind me was the road, a terrifying scene of sudden noise and fast moving objects. And there was me; a human monster wielding a long, threatening stick. Could this be the end?
Large, appealing eyes are irresistible in any infant face, even if it is a wild animal. I wanted to enjoy this unique sight; I wanted to photograph this perfectly formed creature. But most of all, I wanted to set it free. The stick that he feared was to become his salvation. I reached across the undergrowth and gently hooked the stick under his belly to help him over the tall grass to the crest of the bank. He threw a final glance over his shoulder as he leaped free.
Was that gratitude? I like to think so.