Today has been a good day. I have been out with one of the badger group members, checking on the setts, seeking out new ones and examining badger poo to see if it was fresh and whether it was part of a boundary latrine. I have also learn to recognise where badgers climb over walls, leaving little scratch marks on the stones, and several other endearing habits that the beautiful creatures have.
Lilly the Collie has had a wonderful time. Flushing pheasants out from their hideaways on the steep hillside, or poking her nose in to numerous holes and inhaling deeply, the lingering, pungent, and distinctive scent that the badger gives off.
We talked about how British badgers differ from their continental cousins, who prefer to live out in the open. We happened upon several badger day nests, basically hollows in the ground or amongst trees roots that they then line with bedding and use to rest up during the long hot summer days.
We wondered why they dug so many holes, was it perhaps to keep the flea population down? We laughed at some bedding that had been carelessly strewn across the field and joked that it was probably the work of a male badger.
The setts we were checking on were located across two farms. Both farmers whose families have farmed there for generations are “badger friendly”. Happy to keep an eye on them and report any unusual visitors or goings on. We stopped for a chat and for me to be introduced so that next time when I was out and about, alone and without a leader I would be recognised.
The wind was strong, but the air mild, too, mild for November. A kestrel blew across the sky, wheeling and twisting, turning and seeking purchase in the thick warm air, before plunging to ground to feast on a small rodent or beetle.
Stopping to take in the view, I was aware that in the foreground at least, little would have changed for centuries. I was saddened by the thought that when this generation of farmers was gone, there might well be no one to watch over the badgers. When the farming stops, the farm houses and out buildings would soon be converted to houses for the well off, fancy centre page gardens carved from the fields, everything tidied and gentrified, the echos and ripples of the past lost forever under exciting development opportunities.
Who would care about the badgers then? Who would look out for them? They would not be accepted in this changed landscape. Tolerance and an acceptance of their place in the landscape is becoming rare, dwindling and fading, as the march of progress, tidies away, from even the corners, the patches of inconvenient nature.
We walked on, past more setts, finding some new, others that were outliers, some perhaps occupied only briefly as birthing dens for cubs, now abandoned for warmer drier chambers.
Today has been a good day. I learnt a lot, and understood perhaps a little more about how things change and what we lose, so carelessly discarded without a thought, without comprehending where it fits, and how much we are diminished by its passing. Today has been a good day, but far too warm for November.