Country diary: a sea eagle sits in the mist, medieval and unreal

Country diary: a sea eagle sits in the mist, medieval and unreal

Hoar Oak Water, Exmoor: The signs were there that something magical was about to happen, and it did

Foggy conditions can be the best time to see wildlife on Exmoor. A kind of twilight descends and the wild creatures are bolder. On the moor above Lynton, “each hill had a hat, a mist-hackle huge”, to borrow a line from the medieval poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. When mist falls in Arthurian quests, it is a sign that something magical is about to happen.

We had been riding for about an hour towards The Chains, a high, remote plateau, accessible only on foot or horseback. Passing through a series of old field enclosures above Hoar Oak Water, four red deer stags materialised in the bracken. There were three big, mature males, their magnificent branching antlers still grey with velvet, and a pricket – a teenage stag – whose spikes were shorter than his large ears. They gazed at us before cantering away, heads held as still and upright as rocking horses.

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