A 'PANTHER' like creature has been spotted sauntering near an Eden bed and breakfast.

Terry Gray and his family were staying at The Larches in Hartley, near Kirkby Stephen, when he spotted a large black cat in the field behind their accommodation.

Mr Gray reported the sighting to Appleby Tourist Information Centre, who passed the information on to Eden District Council.

Appleby-in-Westmorland town councillor Stan Rooke, who spoke to Mr Gray said: "He was quite convinced that it was much bigger than a domestic cat.

"He was not prepared to put a name to the creature but he said it looked like a panther."

The holidaymaker, who Mr Gray believes was visiting the area from Cheshire, also said that the head of the cat was 'much wider than a domestic cat'.

"He was more surprised than anything else," Cllr Rooke said. "It was quite a shock to him to see this creature wandering across this field especially so close to habitation."


Although Mr Gray made an attempt to grab his camera to take a picture of the cat, he was unfortunately too late and the animal had 'sauntered off'.

Cllr Rooke said that he thought it was the first time that anybody had reported a sighting to the tourist information centre but he had done some research and heard about other nearby sightings.

He said that it would not surprise him if an expert were to go looking for the animal that they would find it was a non-domestic cat.

"They could find out it was an animal that had been let loose or something like that," he said. "It's intriguing. One day we might find out."

Readers of The Westmorland Gazette have been reporting sightings of mysterious big, black cats over many years.

Last year the newspaper carried a front page picture, taken by a visitor, of what was believed to be a non-native black cat on a wall near to the Wild Rose Caravan Park at Ormside, near Appleby. It also received a number of potential spots, including near Elterwater, Grasmere and Ingleton.

In 2002 the Gazette reported that a Cheshire tourist came face-to-face with a panther-like creature in a nocturnal encounter Orton which followed the sighting of a large black cat on the Smardale Mill Road, near Kirkby Stephen, a week earlier.