I’ve spent the evening hugging a tree. And no, it wasn’t a joyful spiritual experience.
As I mentioned in the last post, the badgers have taken up residence in the overgrown craters at the centre of the site, which means that they are practically invisible from anywhere on the outside.
In order to get a good view of them, I spent the evening up a tree on the edge of this overgrown central area. This tree is next to one of the main badger paths, and gives just enough elevation so that you can look over into the craters.
The downside is that this tree only has one side branch from the trunk, about six feet off the ground and facing away from the sett. This side branch grows up at a narrow angle to the trunk. It is dead, so I only trust it to support my weight at the point where it joins the trunk. Sitting down on it is out of the question, so the only possible position is stand on one leg on the branch. After some experimentation, I found that the most secure and comfortable stance was to reach my arms around the trunk and literally hug the tree.
The advantage of this tree was that I was much closer to the sett than usual. I felt like a soldier in enemy territory. For a long time I’ve looked at this patch of ground from a distance, and now I was right here in the middle of it.
The disadvantage was that it was excruciatingly uncomfortable. Having all my weight on one foot wedged into a narrow branch became surprisingly painful after only about ten minutes. I found that by hugging the tree tightly and going through some sort of slow motion hopping manoeuvre I could change legs and ease the pressure a little, but since I was very close to the sett I couldn’t afford to move too much.
The tree did help me to stay out of sight. Even the local rabbit hopped underneath without suspicion.
At 7.50pm I heard the unmistakable whickering of badgers from the deep undergrowth. This was repeated again shortly afterwards.
It meant two things. Firstly, that the badgers were above ground, and engaged in some relaxed and happy play fighting. Secondly, that they were on the other side of the foliage to me.
By 8.15 the light was failing. No badgers had appeared on my side of the sett. I decided to call it a night, and stiffly and gracelessly I slid down the tree on my cramped legs. The badgers carried on yipping and whickering. With their mocking laughter ringing in my ears I slunk off home.
Curse these stripey devils yet again…!