from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Tuesday 22 January 2013

wild boar

On Saturday early evening, in the new dark, I was barrowing some garden prunings round the side of the shed where I have my study-come-studio. From a couple of yards away, just over the low adjoining hedge, suddenly, was a huge noise – it sounded like two big men slopping heavily in wellies through the thick layer of oakleaves in our garden on the old corrugated concrete farmtrack leading from the house to our field and veg plot, accompanied by a giant dog with sinus trouble, grunting.

I froze, being alone at the time in a secluded place without a torch, before my rational mind kicked in and told me that two big men trespassing or intent on trouble would be at pains to conceal their movements. 

My rational mind also told me it was an absolutely enormous badger. Gigantic. A woolly mammoth of a badger. In wellies. 

The prickling at the nape of my neck however was accompanied by the word BOAR. And it was insistent.

Pictish boar
I know boar. I was once chased up an apple tree in an abandoned orchard high in the French Pyrenees by two scrumping and ferocious boar. It makes a good story, but I was up there for quite some time.

Much later, with my then lover who lives in France, we frequently saw wild boar in the ancient oakwoods, and would go out to listen and spot them in his meadow at dusk. They sound like a huge wind in the canopy as they stream down the hillside through the forest.

As I was telling myself, this time, that we didn't get wild boar in Devon, I remembered that of course we do, in fact. Some friends who own a café in Tavistock, the other side of the moor from here, saw one early one morning wandering past the café, up the hill.

And after said lover and I had split up (the relationship didn't ever work, though our friendship was, and is, good), back here in Devon, in fact on the little Bere peninsula in 2007, I frequently saw the tusk-tearings of the earth and their hoofprints in the fields near my cottage (I kept quiet about it as wild boar was turning up too often on pub menus for my liking; and in fact 'mine' disappeared). 

That year there was a great deal of fuss in the local paper about boar spotted on Yelverton Common, 3 or 4 miles from where I saw their tracks. ('Someone might sprain their ankle running away from one; we need to shoot them,' opined one well-known journalist who should have known better.)

In my newest collection, All the Missing Names of Love, I have this poem about them:

Tracking the Wild Boar

First traces I almost don’t notice. Then
hefting the winter pelt of field the tracks

of snout and tusk have blossomed into plouth
and furrow. Next, nothing: rippled field healed over.

Daily gunshots in the wood seem more ominous.
Gone that little surge of wild; along with

the winterblue nights we spent, you and I
on a different hillside, standing in brittle grasses

listening for the rough bristle, under star-
shine’s crackle, of boar against the dark.
© Roselle Angwin, 2007/2012

Then I remembered seeing a little group at a pool on Dartmoor.  So it may be that we have them here, too.

(I remember also seeing them a number of times from the Paddington to Penzance train beside the tracks near Reading.)

It seems that boar became extinct in the UK in around the 13th century, though later attempts were made, usually unsuccessfully, to reintroduce them.

They may, just may, be recolonising – I hope. Some of the Devon ones were let loose deliberately from a wild boar farm, I gather. Let the wild endure, I say. (I also say that until we know how to relate skilfully to the inner wild we won't be able to relate healthily to the outer. Unless we make this relationship conscious and engaged, its shadow will be fear and violence, to put it crudely and simplistically.)

And in thinking about all this, I remember my Pictish studies at university, and how fascinated I became with the symbols carved on Pictish stones, of which the boar, as above – totemic guardian of valour and courage and ferocity – was one.  I also remember that the people of Orkney (where some of the Pictish sites are) were the People of the Boar.

I don't know who took this photo. I found it on the British Wild Boar site – if anyone knows, tell me and I'll credit them.



  1. great boar stuff..have a peep at my blog for latest drawing of a boar for my war pig

  2. Just to add a bit about Boar to your amazing post, "its medicine teaches us to confront human weaknesses and to change them into strengths... If Wild Boar has charged into your [life] today, you are being asked to confront anything or anybody that you have been avoiding". (Medicine Cards by Jamie Sams & David Carson). I wonder if this is a message to you.

  3. Michael I've just had a look. OH wow - real serious heavy-duty boar - you've captured its spirit! Can I pinch it and credit it and plug your book? ;-) xx

    For anyone else reading this, Michael's blog is He and I have done a number of artist/poet collaborations, and occasionally lead land art workshops (This year again M?).

    Angie - how strange; I thought exactly the same thing (I mean looking in Sams and Carson's book) but couldn't be bothered to traipse out to the garden study in this freezing rain to get my copy of that book - plus am trying to keep my blogs briefer (ha ha!) for people's boredom levels! But thank you - I have to now. In the days when I was a shoemaker, an apprentice of mine swore her totem was boar, as in the Medicine Cards, and I was trying to remember as I wrote the blog its totemic significance.

    I always reckon if an animal pushes its way into your field of attention 3 times, say, it's significant (unless it's something like a blackbird or robin which you see many times a day anyway). Thank you for being so intuitive!

  4. Cool! Apparently there were about 100 introduced in 2005 and they seem to be thriving Wild boar ‘thriving’ on Exmoor

  5. Thanks David! Will check that one. Hope it's still the case that they're thriving. There is a move to reintroduce wolves to Scotland - that would be wonderful, though there's a lot of opposition from farmers.

  6. Thanks, Belinda, as ever! Rx

  7. I have mixed feelings about the reintroduction of species such as wolves.The reasons why they died out in the UK have not gone away. You only have to consider the prevailing attitudes towards fox, badger, otter, buzzard and so on to realise that reintroduced wolves could never be truly wild here - for their own protection. Having said that, I would love to be travelling through Scotland, to Iona say, and glance through the window of the train and catch sight of a wolf...

  8. Of course you can. Glad you like it, the book should be available for download via blurb pretty darn soon as I put it up today.
    And yes would love to do another workshop, still fancy the canoeing one, anything would be great.

  9. Jinny, that's a good point. And look at what's happening to wolves in the States (and Canada?) at the moment.

    I'm not sure it's a good reason, though - do we keep everything small and closed down because of a few nutters? In other words, do we hope for and act towards a paradigm shift that includes compassion and wisdom, or do we let the prevailing currents of fear and ignorance direct everything we do? - Truth is, I don't know the answer, of course, but I know what my heart says... And what you say is also important and a consideration. x

    Michael - Thanks! :-) xx


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