on and bring them here, take this knife with you. You three collect the dirty plates and pans and put them in the running stream and leave them there, they will wash themselves. I will boil the water and get the mugs out ready. The camp became a hive of activity as they all leapt into action.
The sun was sinking in the west, soon it would be dark; they were sitting around the fire drinking nettle tea. ‘Is there any questions you would like to ask boys’ Maurice asked,
‘Do you live in the forest mister Ned?’
‘No! But I do spend a lot of time in the forest, just call me Ned, you must be very quiet because we are in the animals homes and we don’t want to disturb them. There will be a surprise for you in a few minutes don’t shout or jump there is no danger. Listen here they come.’ The sounds of many hooves were coming along the stony track.
‘Come on crawl to the edge and look down to the grass and stream. It was less than a minute until a huge stag appeared, to the boys the antlers were massive he went to the stream to drink his fill at the same time he was showing caution.
Ned made a call sound then the stag called the rest of the pack forward, soon there were deer everywhere drinking from the stream and eating the grass. Then the stag came up the path towards them Ned crawled backwards, ‘Just stay still boys’ then he stood up and made another noise and the stag came over to him, it looked even bigger close up. Ned started talking to him and patting him behind the antlers. ‘Now Rupert come first slowly so he can see you let him smell the back of your hand then give him a pat, now Maurice you do the same then Harry and finally Peter. Now walk to your tents and sit at the table.’
Ned walked the stag to the edge to show all was well then left him grazing, walking to our camp he sat at the table. ‘It’s ok to talk quietly he knows we are here and we will do him no harm.’ It soon became dark apart from the light of the fire. The flickering light created strange and ghostly shadows in the forest. ‘I will tell you how I know Roger the stag, I found him when he was only two weeks old and I hand reared him, his mother had been taken by poachers. He had been left in the forest when I spotted him. We raised him as a family pet until he was ready to be returned to the wild.’
‘Are there many baby deer just left to die in the forest? Rupert asked. ‘Not since we set up poacher patrols. Most people go out with me or one of the game keepers. to take photographs. That is why I brought you to camp here. I knew the herd would come here for water and to graze. Tomorrow morning we will leave just after first light and go into the forest. Now it is time to go into the trees before turning in for the night’ two at a time go over there behind a tree. That completed they turned in for the night agreeing to make notes for school homework.
The owls started hooting to each other. Then one landed on Harry and Peter’s tent ridge flapping its wings to get its balance this caused quite a panic inside. Until they heard me laughing then they calmed down. Rupert and Maurice poked their heads out of the tent and saw the funny side of the owl perched on the ridge. Soon they slithered into their sleeping bags for sleep.
next installment Friday