COUN­TRY DI­ARY EST. 1906

The Guardian Weekly - - Culture - A IGAS Mark Cocker

Barely had we let the sed­i­ment of evening set­tle be­fore a badger en­tered stage right. It trun­dled to the light and its brindle-haired body was so dome-shaped that it gave the im­pres­sion not so much of Bri­tain’s largest ter­res­trial preda­tor as of a boul­der mov­ing.

Like stone it also seemed rooted, cer­tain of its place and of its un­fold­ing rou­tine – the in­dif­fer­ence it showed to the ad­ja­cent hide, the as­sump­tion that there would be food, and the worka­day man­ner it dis­man­tled the peanut cache. This had been hid­den for it in a pine stump and round its root base, but also in pock­ets cut into a hor­i­zon­tal log capped by heavy rocks.

The badger made light of it all. Raised on hind legs, it churned a blunt snout through the pine trough. Through­out the visit we could hear an un­end­ing slurp-chomp of ground­nuts or the badger’s snuf­fled breath that was one part res­pi­ra­tion, one part re­lent­less sam­pling of the wood­land air. There was one ex­tra­or­di­nary mo­ment when it looked trou­bled, the five-banded head froze and faced straight at us, and the shiny jet flake at its snou­tend fell silent. To find a fi­nal meal con­cealed in the log, it snouted out nuts be­low a cap­stone. This quartz, more than a bil­lion years old, is the be­drock in these parts and from a time when Scot­land stood about where Antarc­tica rests to­day. It was no match for the flint-axe head of a badger, which nuz­zled it aside like a cub. A mo­ment later and the glo­ri­ous crea­ture rocked away across the ground un­til it merged with dark­ness.

It was odd to re­flect that this lo­cal, whose res­i­dence is as old as the hills, should be the one that the gov­ern­ment has cho­sen to kill for a dis­ease that we brought with us.

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