A High Wycombe walker got a huge shock when she spotted what she thought was a puma in a popular woodland.

Natalie Godliman said that despite long-term rumours of big cats lurking in the Chilterns, she always thought they were a myth – until she saw what she described as a tan-coloured puma around Keep Hill Woods on Thursday.

She said she has lived in the area for 29 years and visits the woods every day but has never seen anything like that before.

Describing what she saw, Natalie told the Bucks Free Press: “It was basking in the sun in the long grass. I couldn’t tell what on earth it was then it got up and it bounded across the field and I saw its silhouette and long thin tail.

“It took me a minute to realise and I couldn’t believe it was a puma.”

She said the incident, which happened near the old ski slope at around 5pm on Thursday, April 22, has left her scared.

She added: “Now I'm a bit scared! I wasn't carrying my phone at the time annoyingly. I'm worried as I have small spaniel and worried it could possibly attack me too if it wanted to.

“I'm not going to stop going in the woods though but now it seems a life and death situation. Now every time I hear a squirrel rustle in the leaves it makes me jump.”

The ‘Big Cats of the Chilterns’ group, which investigates reports of unusual sightings in the area, were made aware of Natalie’s experience.

On their Facebook page on April 24, they wrote: “There is at least one Puma currently prowling around the urban fringes of High Wycombe. We are out today tracking and setting up cameras. Keep your eyes peeled if you are local to these areas at twilight. The latest sighting was yesterday.”

For many years there have been apparent sightings of big cats in the Chilterns, including pumas, lynx and leopards in areas including Great Missenden, Princes Risborough, High Wycombe and Wendover.

In his blog, Paulo Nicolaides from ‘Big Cats of the Chilterns’ said High Wycombe has been a popular area for sightings of urban pumas.

He said: “My own investigations reached a climax when a lady living next to the Rye contacted me. She was watching the TV when all of a sudden a full grown puma walked past her glass sliding doors. She instantly called the police who later found no sign of the animal.

“On interviewing the lady she assured me that she was originally from South America and ‘knows what a puma looks like!’

“Around this time I had multiple sightings of the same species very close to where she lived. Pumas have also turned up at Wycombe marsh and been seen coming to and from the site of the old ski slope. Wycombe Airfield also had a spate of sightings and animal kills including a partially eaten fox.”