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Archive for the ‘Background’ Category

I’m off on holiday!

No more badgers, deer or tracks for me for a couple of weeks.  I’m off on holiday to the ancient rocky druid shore of Anglesey.

H.E. Forrest, in 1907, wrote that badgers were not indigenous to Anglesey, although he knew of one sett, the badgers having apparently walked over the Menai Bridge.  Even so, there’ll be plenty to keep me occupied, from seals to adders, choughs to ravens.  I was lucky enough to see a minke whale from the shore here a couple of years ago, and I’ve love to repeat that sighting.

Who knows, if I find time on my hands I may even see if I can get close to some of the red squirrels in the woods at the southwest of the island…

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OK – I haven’t posted any wildlife-related activity for a couple of weeks, but the truth is that I’ve been very

The vegetable garden earlier in the year

The vegetable garden earlier in the year

busy. Partly I’ve been busy at work, both at work itself and with some extra-curricular stuff too. I’m working towards some professional qualifications and they are taking up a fair bit of my time.

I’ve also been busy in the garden. My poor vegetable garden had been a little bit neglected during the wet weather, with the result that the weeds were reaching impressive proportions. It is perfectly possible to weed the garden in the rain, of course, it’s just that I don’t like doing it. A bit of TLC was called for here, and I’m glad to say that the vegetable beds are looking quite civilised again.

More importantly, the time had come to harvest some of the fruit and veg. Now, we in the modern world have become very insulated to the cycles of nature. We can go to the supermarket at any time of year and buy what we want. It may have been flown in from the far corners of the world, but it’s there.

I’ve been growing my own fruit and vegetables for a few years now and this has given me a different perspective. Two weeks ago I had nothing to eat. Last week I had six pounds of blackcurrants and redcurrants and a whole sack of broad beans. The trick is to make the best use of them.

Of course, I could have eaten them, but there’s a limit to how many broad beans and currants even I can eat. Another answer would be to put them in the freezer, but this seems like cheating somehow. I have a long-term interest in traditional farming practices, and a freezer wouldn’t have been an option for most people even 50 years ago. There has to be a better way.

Hence I have re-discovered jam. Jam, in my opinion, is the best way of preserving this glut of fruit. Hence I’ve spent a good few evenings slaving over a hot stove, and I now have enough jam to keep me going for the rest of the year. The blackcurrant jam in particular is very tasty, and it should prevent me from getting scurvy over the winter months!

Now, I don’t actually need the jam to survive – I go to the supermarket like everyone else – but I get pleasure from growing the berries myself and finding a traditional, low-tech way to use them. The same goes for the large jar of dried cherries and the basket of broad beans I’ve got drying in the greenhouse. Sustainable living at its best!

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In the beginning…

Since this is my first post, I feel I should give an account of how my badger-watching career began.

I moved out of London and into the country about five years ago. Another thirty-something professional in search of the good life. I have always enjoyed being out in the countryside: I grew up in a fairly rural area and I’ve spent as much time out of doors as I could, whether it’s been fishing, walking, camping, cross-country running or just mooching about. The natural world has always fascinated me, and over the years I’ve seen a great deal of the British wildlife, from the wild red kites of the Black Mountains to minke whales in the Irish Sea.

Like everyone, I was familiar with the idea of badgers. I’d caught glimpses of a few as they dashed across the road in front of my car at night, and I’d grown accustomed to the sad sight of dead badgers on roadside verges. But I’d never really got close to one though, and if I thought about it, it seemed to me that I had missed out on something.

But I never set out to become the Badger Watching Man – it was never a conscious decision.  It came about entirely by accident.

One evening a couple of years ago I went for a walk through the woods near my village. It was a pleasant summer evening, and I had no particular aim in mind other than to go out and get a breath of fresh air. The woods had that close feeling that you get on summer evenings, as if the trees have been soaking in the heat all day and even though the air is getting a little chill in the fields, the woods seem to radiate a gentle warmth in the still air.

It was close to dusk when and I was heading home when I heard a thrashing sound in the undergrowth. The woods in this area contain quite a few deer, chiefly muntjac and some fallow deer, so it is not uncommon to disturb large animals as you walk and then hear them crashing off.

The noise came closer. Whatever it was, it was coming towards me, invisible in the undergrowth. “Right”, I said to myself, “here’s a chance to have a good look at a deer”. I sat down quietly by the side of path and waited. I’d learned a long time ago that merely by sitting still and quiet you can see all manner of wild things.

The noise grew louder in the still air as the animal came closer. I imagined what size of creature it could be. From the noise it was making it must be at least the size of a deer.

The suspense was perfect. Being in a forest, alone, at dusk and listening to an unseen animal moving towards you is a wonderfully primeval feeling. Of course, there are no dangerous animals in Britain, I know that perfectly well, but some distant genetic memory still made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

The crashing, stomping noise grew ever closer, and just when I thought it must surely be upon me, the long grass parted on the other side of the path not ten feet away from me. There, instead of the mighty deer I had expected, was the stripey face of a badger.

The badger came to an abrupt stop. It looked at me sternly, much as a schoolteacher might look at you over the top of their spectacles, and snorted. For a long second we sat there looking at each other, each one as surprised as the other. Then, with another quiet snort, the badger turned around and went back the way he’d come, making even more noise than before, if possible.

I just sat there. I’d just come face to face with one of Britain’s more secretive animals in the most dramatic way possible.

From that moment I was hooked. I had to find out more.

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