As a kid, we went on lots of holidays to Scotland. My mother doesn’t like flying and we always had a dog to take, so out options were pretty much Scotland, Center Parcs and The Lake District.
One year we went Loch Ness. My brother and I obviously heard of Nessie and we were excited to go and look for the mythical beast. I think every time we saw a wave break or something floating in the loch, we thought it was the swimming dinosaur.
I guess it was one of those days where you hope you’ll buck the trend and actually see it. As it happens, we didn’t, and all I can remember is that it was a long day with lots of walking, and I found a £5 note.
However, ahead of Red Squirrel Awareness week, which starts on September 23, it’s emerged that 20% of Britain’s youngsters under the age of 10 now rank the red squirrel among imaginary creatures like unicorns, Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster.
It turns out that if kids now want to see a fictional animal, they should go to one of my other childhood holiday destinations as Center Parcs Whinfell Forest has created a luxury feeding station especially for the hundreds of red squirrels in the surrounding area.
When I heard the story I was surprised, mainly because I have seen red squirrels, but I was also surprised because I’m sure that there must be other animals that under 10s haven’t seen but wouldn’t think are fictional. More over, though, for some reason it was a greater realisation of extinction, because it is something I have seen and something that I thought was relatively safe.
I couldn’t imagine a scenario of taking children to somewhere that red squirrels were once seen and them walking away disappointed not to see one.