You may of heard of the Trip Hop group Portishead a very ambient and relaxed sound and one that was born in city of Bristol. The group named themselves after the town where they formed and although it is a large commuter town serving the city of Bristol it has little other in the way of claims to fame.
Its sits by the coast at the top of the Gordano Valley and at the bottom of the valley lies the old Victorian seaside town of Clevedon. The valley itself is triangular in shape with flat low lying moor land framed by the wooded hills that make its shape. At one time, these hills boasted a number of iron age forts and even a smattering of bronze age mounds. and nothing much of fortean note has happened around here for many years, if ever.
That was until last August when on the towns social media site Everything Portishead a chap by the name of Stuart Price claimed that whilst out for a bike ride he not only saw but also heard a Hyena:
“People are going to laugh at this but I heard it and saw it – there is a hyena in the valley. Just be careful. They may be more than one. Not sure how it got there, but some joker has let it loose.”
He went on to say that he got in contact with the police, whos very large head quarters are actually situated very close to the valley, and interestingly they said it wasn’t the first time they had heard a report of a hyena type creature locally, but they couldn’t commit any resources to it with out more evidence. It is worth noting that on the same social media post another local resident by the name of Matthew Bennett was quoted as saying:
“We heard something very similar ourselves the other night at about 3am. It was that loud it woke us up – thought it was a fox,”
Now I could go with an argument of miss-identification if the witness had only seen what he thought was a hyena but to hear it as well makes a mistake less likely, there is no animal in this country that remotely looks or sounds like one. So, we have two options, either Mr Price is lying or he is telling the truth. If he is lying and to be fair it is absolutely possible that he could be, for a variety of reasons, then it is of course case closed. But if Mr Price is telling the truth, then where the hell did a Hyena come from?
There was once a population of what are known as Cave Hyenas living in northan Europe which included the UK. But these beasts, who were much bigger than their modern day African cousins died out around 12,500 years ago and it is next to impossible that we still have a relic population living on this tiny island. So the next option is that it is an escapee, well this idea also seems unlikely as creatures such as these are well monitored even in private collections and the nearest two local zoos don’t even keep them as exhibits. There is of course an illegal trade in exotic pets but it would extremely hard to get a Hyena into the country and then loose it to an unlicensed keeper.
So what are we left with? Well from our fortean point of view we might be looking at what Jon Downes would call a zooform, a sort of ghostly animal or maybe a creature somehow arriving here from another plain of existence. There is a belief amongst some researchers that a lot of our out of place animals arrive through such means either under their own steam or by some chance of fate and personally I think there is something to this, zooform type creatures are very often sighted around areas that are steeped in ancient history like hillforts and burial mounds and as I said before the valley certainly does have its fair share. All this is of course speculation but why on earth would people be seeing a Hyena in this sleepy little area of North Somerset.