One thing that surprised us when we came to Hastings was all the talk of badgers.
When we first moved to Harold Road, I brought many plants in pots down from Birmingham, and was mystified to find them either eaten or churned up. Add to this strange large muddy footprints on the steps coming down from the top garden – not a dog or a cat, too big for a fox. ‘Ah, it’s the badgers, ‘ said our elderly neighbour.
When we moved up here things grew more exciting. Our neighbours have a set in their garden, and presumably also they trot down here from the Country Park. The Philosopher soon embarked on an all-out war of attrition to keep them out of our back garden. They dig under the back fence, he fills the holes with concrete blocks, they move the blocks, he reinforces the fence base with planks and metal stakes. They break through the side gate, he reinforces it with netting. They tear the netting off, he…. and so on for ever more, presumably. Once in, they dig up the lawn and flowerbeds.
On Saturday, we were down in the Post Office Tea Room, and the lads were telling us that badgers came into their garden – they live near us – and frightened their chickens to death. Literally – only one hen survived, and the Philosopher was honoured to eat a scotch egg made from her one daily offering.
All this talk of badgers, and we had never seen a wild live one – until last night. I was just driving off to go to Writers’ Group, and the Philosopher was looking out of the window, and he saw Mr Badger emerge from our neighbour’s garden, and trot across the road in front of him. When I returned, I was very envious, and went to the window to take a look myself. I peered around for a few seconds, and then, to my surprise, there he was again. Clearly illuminated by the streetlight, he strolled casually along the pavement, and eventually snuffled off into a garden across the road. He was a much bigger animal than I expected. Clearly, we will need to do more watching.
I don’t approve of this badger cull business – it seems a very lazy way of dealing with a problem. I’m not sentimental about animals, but I don’t hold with what I see to be the needless killing of these interesting creatures.
I was brought up in the country, but you never saw much wild life then – in those days, anything that moved was either shot, poisoned, poached, trapped by gamekeepers or dismembered by dogs. I remember the horrible ‘gamekeepers’ gibbets’ – lines hung with sad corpses of weasels, stoats and birds of prey. It is different now, and very different in towns – in urban Birmingham we used to have fox cubs playing in the garden, and woodpeckers visiting our bird feeder.