The good guests
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