The good guests

Country Life Every Week - - In The Garden -

In fact, they came over with the Ro­mans who—rather hor­ri­bly—fat­tened them on chest­nuts and cur­rants, then in earth­en­ware jars, to eat, but to­day’s cud­dly mice are de­scended from im­ports re­leased by the Hon Wal­ter Roth­schild at Tring Park in Hert­ford­shire. De­spite ef­forts to en­cour­age them, they haven’t spread far be­yond the Chilterns. Only 8mm (about a third of an inch) in di­am­e­ter, with a con­i­cal shell, this mini snail was first spot­ted in Paign­ton, Devon, and has slowly spread north. Lurks harm­lessly on walls and logs. Peak District lo­cals are blasé about the sur­real sight; wal­la­bies es­caped decades ago from Capt Henry Brock­le­hurst’s menagerie at Roaches House, near Leek, Stafford­shire. Oth­ers—some es­capees, some de­lib­er­ate in­tro­duc­tions—ex­ist in Ire­land, Scot­land, Sus­sex and the Chan­nel Is­lands. The gi­ants of the owl world, once used as mag­pie de­coys, died out here in the 19th cen­tury, prob­a­bly from per­se­cu­tion—they’re vo­ra­cious preda­tors that can take some­thing the size of a hare or fawn. In the past 20 years, zoo es­capees have made their way to the Scot­tish High­lands, but the ge­netic pool is small. These el­e­gant fish, in­tro­duced as a game species, are mainly stocked, but the self-sus­tain­ing pop­u­la­tions do com­pete with our beau­ti­ful na­tive brown trout for habi­tat. The

ar­rived a few decades ear­lier from Europe and was re­leased as a coarse species; it’s a fast breeder, but is not thought to be an is­sue.

Above: The Eurasian ea­gle owl is one of the largest species of owl, with some fe­males boast­ing a wing­span of more than 6ft. Left: The gir­dled snail is small and harm­less, with a beau­ti­ful spi­ralled shell

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