Badger Wood is an ancient place and the sett hidden within it is also old. I know this because
- The plants that grow in the wood are all ancient woodland indicator species (ransoms, wild daffodils, lords and ladies, primroses, bluebells, dog's mercury). They've not suffered the plough and their ancestors were in the wood in all likelihood since the last great Ice sheets retreated ten thousand years ago
- The Badger Paths that run through the wood are all well-defined, meaning that countless generations of badgers have trod them through the centuries.
- The earthworks that surround the sett are significant in size, because over the centuries the badgers have dug up more earth to put on top of them and created these huge structures rising from the woodland floor.
- I've seen the maps and know that, up until fifty years ago, the wood that is now reduced to a thin strip between mono-culture fields,once covered all the land here as far as the eye could see.
|Greater Stitchwort blooms in the banks|
I started off walking up the Green Lane, and at the top decided there was so little to see out in the fields I'd be better off inside the old wood, so the dogs and I crossed the hedge line and stepped into a magical world full of life.
The badger paths run right through the wood. I followed the main one and soon came across a fallen tree which crossed it. I hoped it would reveal the sharpness of badger claws as the path continues on the other side, meandering through the wood.
Hopefully you can see the scratch marks in the surface of the wood. The badgers have to climb over this tree to continue on their way and badger claws are razor sharp. This allows them to peel the skin off hedgehogs so effectively. Not the nicest of thoughts perhaps, but this is the reality of nature. If we hadn't got in the way so completely the balance would work itself out between predator and prey quite happily.
All along the path were scuffed up areas of bare earth where stripy folk have been rubbing off their winter coats.....
Now is the perfect time to find these patches in your local woods. The badgers rake up the greenery so they can scratch against the earth more effectively. There are lots of these badger rubbing places in evidence this week, many of them with piles of these in them...
Badger hair is quite long and brittle.Sometimes, although not always, with grey bits in it. Most of the stuff I find is white.
Walking through ancient woods always shows you something interesting. Apart from the badgers, in my walk I found this.....
It's a bowl of wood growing out of a silver birch. Thousands of years ago, our ancestors would have known where all these natural bowls were growing in their local environment. They harvested them and used carpentry skills far superior to my own to hollow the wood out and turn it into bowls for storing grain in.
There was also this...
It's a hazelnut that's been nibbled. Birds and squirrels split nuts open and leave jagged lines in the shell, but mice, voles and dormice make smaller holes. You can tell which is which by the pattern of the tooth mark on the edge of the hole. I'm fairly sure this is a mouse, although the hole is a bit bigger than others I've seen.
We reached the sett and discovered the badgers had been hard at work spring cleaning. Old winter bedding had been brought up and chucked out. Huge piles of these dried collections of vegetation were left strewn about the entrances.
There was also evidence of recent renovation work with fresh chalk spoil heaps piled up outside the front doors.
I'd lost track of time wandering along the badger way and was jumped back into modern life by my plumber ringing my mobile, so we ended the walk there.
Back at home and the andrena mining bees have moved in to the lawn....
You can just see the little bee inside the hole. I've rescued four from the house already this week, with my usual problem of trying to persuade them to get off my finger once I've picked them up. Yesterday I sat for twenty minutes in the garden with one on my finger, waiting while the bee had a good old clean of her antennae with her legs, watching me as I watched her, before she'd decided she was spick and span enough and sufficiently devoid of carpet fluff to fly off. I'm glad to have them back. I don't really understand why some people classify them as pests and kill them. Having mining bees in your lawn is so good for the soil as the burrows aerate it. They aren't there for long and the small spoil heaps are very quickly absorbed back into the grass, plus the bees themselves are pollinators.
One other quick thing before I go- listen out for goldfinches perched in trees singing non-stop over the next week or so. They are nest building and the males sing from trees close to the nest to help the females locate it when she return with twigs etc. They will sing when she's incubating too, but less forcefully. Ours are in the wisteria and he is singing his little heart out from dawn to dusk at present.
Hope you're all well and enjoying this gorgeous spell of warm sunny weather if you're UK based.