Weird Norfolk: The Norfolk Puma spotted across north Norfolk in 2011

Was a puma spotted in north Norfolk in 2011? PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Was a puma spotted in north Norfolk in 2011? PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Al Stewart claimed The Year of the Cat was in 1976 when he released an album of the same – but in Norfolk, the year of the cat was most definitely 2011.

Across the county, the sightings of the legendary big cat of Norfolk were at an all-time high, as the creature was spotted in various locations around the county, starting in North Norfolk in March, when a number of people reported seeing a black panther or puma roaming wild.

The cat was first sighted at Bayfield Hall estate, near Holt. Robin Combe, owner of the estate, said it had been spotted by three 'sensible country people' who were on a grey squirrel shoot. 'My information is second hand, but they saw it about two miles south of Blakeney, next to the Langham to Letheringsett Road,' said Mr Combe, although Adrian Bamforth, who was leading the squirrel hunt, played down the sighting: 'It doesn't take much for somebody to say they've seen a big cat. There are several deer on the estate, so it could have been a mistake'.

Nonetheless, word quickly spread on social media, including Twitter and Facebook, and a number of other people people added their own sightings at other locations across the county. One Twitter user, the approprioately-named Cat Theobald, said she had seen 'him/it' between Burnham Market and Burnham Overy.

And a caller to the North Norfolk News said he had seen a black panther in north Norfolk about 18 months ago.

The man, who gave his name but asked not to be identified because he feared ridicule, said he and his wife had been leaving Kelling Heath Holiday Park at about 8.45am: 'we were on a narrow road and all of a sudden a black panther crossed in front - it slunk across, very cautiously. It was about 25 to 30 ft away. It was lower than an Alsatian but I'd say it was about the same size. I saw it, and I can guarantee that there was one up in those parts 18 months ago.'

A month later, a woman in Aylsham spotted a large cat in the grounds of Felbrigg Hall in the late afternoon. The creature was walking through a wooded area and the woman glimpsed it from the car as her and her husband drove along the entrance road to the stately home.

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'I looked to the left and saw it - it looked so big. It was completely black and it didn't walk like a dog. I kept my eyes trained to where it should have reappeared, after the next clump of trees, but it didn't emerge,' she said.

Just down the road in Martham, the mystery cat was seen again. Katie Myers, 25, spotted the black cat in a field near the road between Hemsby and Martham at 4pm on Saturday while travelling in a car: 'I thought it was a deer initially, but I could see it was a black cat. It was not a little cat either. It was across the other side of the field and about 4ft in length.

'You hear all these sightings of animals going about, but you never actually believe it until you see it, so to see the cat was quite a surprise.'

In May, the cat was spotted on heathland in Salthouse, close to the Cookies crab shop, while in June, Sylvia Phillips caught sight of the creature as she drove from Dereham to Scarning.

'It was pure black with feline features and a long, curved tail - it definitely wasn't a muntjac. I wish I'd had my camera. It was beautiful,' said Mrs Phillips. After a few seconds, the animal turned away and 'sauntered' back the way it had come, disappearing into a field.

In July, the cat was seen near Worstead and then days later when it crossed the road in front of a driver close to the old RAF Coltishall site towards Buxton.

The Eastern Daily Press can chart big cat sightings back to 1965 when four men spotted a creature while shooting near Larling and in both 1993 and 1994 there were a cluster of so-called 'puma' sightings in south Norfolk. Of late, however, the elusive black cat of Norfolk has been all quiet on the eastern front – unless you can tell us otherwise…

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