COUNTRY DIARY EST. 1906
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.