‘Big black cat’ on Devon beach stuns onlookers

Sightings of ‘big cats’ have long been a common occurrence across Devon, but far rarer is sightings of a big black cat seen prowling along the water’s edge at Exmouth beach as has been witnessed today. Many heads were turned in shock when the ‘creature’ was seen cooling off during usually warm temperatures by paddling in the sea this morning, June 15.

However, far from being a dangerous wild animal on the loose, a simple and fearless explanation has been revealed. The life-size cat is in fact the creation of Brendan Rawlings who is renowned for his breathtakingly unusual sculptures.

Brendan, the creator and artist of Zen Wood Design, is well-known for creating a stir at Exmouth beach because he has taken many of his previous artworks there for photoshoots including a 12ft Neptune/ Poseidon wooden sculpture, an imposing 6ft crouching male angel with wings and a child angel called Faith modeled on his daughter, Kitty.

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His latest creation, a full-sized panther named Resilience, has been beautifully crafted out of local driftwood.

He said: “It took an age to burn the black on but I’m thrilled with the look. There have been multiple sightings over the UK since the Dangerous Wild Animals Act was introduced in 1976. My dad spotted a large black cat on Woodbury common back in the ’80s when out for a run, so when I’m out running or walking somewhere remote, it’s always on my mind.



Resilience has been made out of driftwood

“If they are roaming about the UK, then ‘resilience’ is a perfect word to describe them, having adapted to a foreign climate and continued to survive. Perhaps we could take a leaf out of their book in the coming years with our economic climate worsening?”

In 2019, Brendan made his brother-in-law a shark made from driftwood – and soon found himself with 20 commissions for further designs. Within just three weeks, he had enough interest to keep him busy full-time. He has been running Zen Wood Design from his workshop in Topsham, ever since.



The 12ft Old Gods Assemble Neptune/ Poseidon wooden sculpture

Previously he ran a successful fitness company in Dubai and then returned to Devon in the summer of 2017 with his family. Brendan now spends much of his time working on commissions while also planning what his next special project to surprise locals with will be.

He said: “Apart from a busy diary of commissions, I am planning a number of other sculptures this year. My next project is a large galloping horse sculpture which I’m excited about.”

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