“Badgers moving the goal posts” was the response from our government this week trying to wriggle out of their catastrophic mismanagement of the whole shameful badger cull business. I have always been astutely aware of the badgers incredible intelligence and its amazing no nonsense approach to detail, but when the minister in charge of something as important and controversial as the badger cull comes out and says, “the badgers have moved the goal posts” you have to seriously ask your self whether these people are up to the job, and I have come to the conclusion that they most certainly are not, and now the “in” word for taking care of the badgers is “gas”, this is most alarming as I was under the impression that gassing any wild animal was illegal. A particular sad and harrowing case of a protected animal being brought down to the most common denominator; cost. Paterson’s take on the whole proceedings is to kill as many as you can of the seventy per cent that were ear marked for slaughter at the start of this shambolic campaign and no one knows just how many in numbers seventy per cent is. With a clown in charge like Paterson you could easily wipe out most of the badgers in the cull zones. Unscientific, not thought through and not at all in the public’s interest. Appeasing a few at the cost of British wildlife.
The talk with Nimrod last weekend had been bothering me, something didn’t seem quite as it should be. Not seeing an old friend for ten years and then when he did finally catch up with me I couldn’t help but feel I was speaking to a very nervous, concerned gamekeeper.
As I approached my badger sett on Thursday evening the Coopers were sat outside their tent, badgers going in and out of the badger cage freely and happily. “Good evening Allan, how’s it going?” asked Mrs Cooper.
“Very well,” I replied.
“The badger cage is like a game to them now,” said Mrs Cooper, “they all go in and wait for the handful of peanuts. We’ve got it now so they can be in there waiting for four minutes before they come back out, they see you pick up a handful of peanuts and then they are straight back in.”
“Brilliant! Quite unbelievable, you have trained them to script,” I replied sitting down beside Mr and Mrs Cooper. As we all sat and watched the badgers, Mrs Cooper brought the conversation around to Nimrod.
“What had he called to see you for?” she asked.
“A badger problem,” I replied.
“What sort of problem?” asked Mrs Cooper.
“A badger baiting one.”
As Mrs Cooper asked the questions I couldn’t help but think back to how offish she had been and quite sheepish in the company of Nimrod last Saturday morning and I was definitely under the impression as we spoke that she was aware of the problem on the Foxton Estate. “How could she be? Foxton is twelve miles away?” and I tried to get the thought from my mind. I changed the conversation from Nimrod back to the joke headlines in the newspapers “Badgers changing the goalposts” making monkeys out of our government, but Mrs Cooper was all for bringing the conversation back to Nimrod and Lord and Lady Foxton.
“Are you going to help Nimrod?” I told her that that was my intention. A beaming smile lit up her face.
“What is your plan of action?”
“I’ve got a few ideas, evacuation is out of the question, there’s no time. Operation Mozart’s Magic Flute has been a long time in the planning and I feel it’s the only way we can make the badgers safe against Defra, you cannot fight a government, but this is a badger baiting problem, a different ball game with a different set of rules.”
“What do you mean no time?” asked Mrs Cooper
“Nimrod said he had frightened them off a few weeks earlier, he had rang the police but by the time they arrived the baiters were long gone and in my experience they always come back, especially to a sett like that one, it is totally unprotected.” Mrs Cooper’s face immediately went straight,
“Why, have you been there?”
“Yes, Nimrod took me there last Saturday afternoon.” Changing the subject completely I said, “You’re going to soon have to vacate this tent, it is getting too damp and cold and it will be getting into your bones.”
“We’re alright at the moment, we are warm enough,” Replied Mr Cooper. I could see that this was going to be quite difficult.
“Well good night to you both, sleep well,” and I got up to leave, on doing so, Mrs Cooper put out her hand, “Do your best, do your very best at Foxton’s” she said. Her attitude towards the Foxton’s and Nimrod I thought had changed, but maybe it was me, had I interpreted the situation incorrectly, I thought she was cool towards Nimrod last Saturday morning as he had been the one who had escorted me off The Foxton Estate. “Never mind, all water under the bridge now,” I thought.
When I got back to the house I sorted out Nimrod’s phone number and rang it. After a few rings a voice on the other end of the phone said, “Do you know what time of the night it is?”
“Sorry to bother you so late Nimrod, I was just ringing up to make sure you were still bringing the gun, the silencer, the ammunition and the four ropes of modified crow scarers on the 16th and have you dug that fox hole? And what night would be convenient to get together for a drink?” He answered telling me that the fox hole had been dug and he would get the gun, and all the extras to me on the 16th and the crow scarers had been modified to my precise detonation times and he could see me any time for a drink other than Saturday night. By this time Jackie had come down from upstairs.
“What are you doing on the phone this time of night?” she asked.
“Just getting a few things clear with Nimrod. We’ll talk more about that drink Nimrod, see you on the 16th, see ya.” As I put the phone down I immediately thought of the one night Nimrod couldn’t make it for a drink, Saturday, and that was the night I had to be on the Foxton Estate. Something did not add up.
Saturday morning duly came round and I explained to Jackie that I wanted her to drop me with a sleeping bag and a few provisions up on the Foxton Estate that evening and pick me up at 6am on Sunday morning. Jackie was not best pleased as she would have quite liked to have been out there with me but after ten minutes of cajoling she was in agreement and helped me find the sleeping bag and sorted me out with enough provisions to do a small platoon a fortnight. I picked through her array of goodies, enough that I thought would sustain me through the evening and everything was now set. Half past seven the sleeping bag, binoculars, thermos flask and my food provisions were packed into the Land Rover and we were soon bobbling along towards the Foxton Estate. After about twenty minutes I got Jackie to stop by the side of a Beech wood. We kissed and said goodbye quickly as her lights would have been standing out like a sore thumb. I was out of the Land Rover with my bundle of provisions and into the wood where I stood and watched for a few seconds Jackie’s lights weave along the country lane on her way home. I picked up my bundle and started to make my way to the stone wall that I had half built ten years earlier. After about twenty minutes I arrived at the wall. I looked up to the left, up the bank and started to look for the foxhole that Nimrod had dug. After a bit of grass kicking and searching, I found it, forty five yards up the bank to the left of the wall, there it was, eighteen inches deep and eighteen inches wide and 6 feet 6 inches long, an old sheep hurdle covered in grass and leaves lay on the top of it, that’s why it was difficult to find. Nimrod had made a great job and this started to alarm me even more. After an hour of surveying the area of walking back down the track and looking at the part of the track that I agreed with Nimrod that was to be ploughed to stop any vehicle access, to my astonishment had been completed along with the laying of small tree trunks all the way across it. “There is no way that I would get my Land Rover across that” I thought and it was almost as if the middle of it had been heavily watered as the water seemed deeper than when I had seen it last. I picked up a stone and threw it into the middle of the water, “Mm,” I mused, “This is being taken very seriously, let’s go and have a look at them badgers.” As I wandered back towards the wall, the preciousness of the badgers started to come through loud and clear. The expense of the ploughing up of the track, the elaborate digging out of the foxhole and the visit from Nimrod after ten years, these badgers meant an awful lot to the Foxtons’ which disturbed me as the Foxton’s I remembered weren’t particularly good natured to any wild animal. I looked over the wall and there was the badger sett shown to me by Nimrod. Three or four good sized entrances, “This is quite pathetic,” I thought, “No cover to speak of, baiting dogs, the very creatures from hell would find this easy.” Just then a badger poked his head out from one of the holes. As I looked at the badger I could see he was looking out of the sett half expectantly and then I knew this old boy had been used to nightly visits.
Having paced out various hit points marking the odd shaped stone in the wall in my mind, I returned to the foxhole, crawled inside it and waited. This was the night that Nimrod couldn’t make it for a drink and I couldn’t help but think, in fact I felt sure this whole situation was something to do with it.
As I lay there almost napping, the time now would have been about midnight, a beam of light was coming from the direction of the Foxton Manor. With my head out the front of the foxhole, straining my neck round to get a better vision to follow the lights, I could see there were two vehicles. As the lights got nearer, I sunk down deeper into the foxhole. Soon the vehicles were down in front of me, a short wheel based Land Rover, that was Nimrod’s and behind that a safari type seven seater Land Rover, this was the Foxtons’. They pulled twenty yards passed the badger sett. Nimrod was soon out of his Land Rover stood to attention, the four doors opened on the safari Land Rover, two kids bounced out first, a girl and a boy of about eight and ten shortly followed by Lord and Lady Foxton and then to my amazement, Mrs Cooper. I couldn’t believe it. I lay there and watched as Mrs Cooper and Lady Foxton started to manoeuvre Alexandra in the back of the Land Rover. Soon Alexandra had been prized out of the vehicle with Lord Foxton one side of her for support and Lady Foxton the other. There they stood and then the two children started to shout, “You can do it mummy, you can do it.” And Mrs Cooper could then be heard saying, “Come on Alexandra, put one foot in front of the other.” Alexandra was now holding her mother’s hand one side and slightly leaning on Lord Foxton the other, and I could see that she was putting one foot in front of the other and she was actually slowly walking. Mrs Cooper was beaming with enthusiasm and encouragement. After a couple of minutes they were all at the wall leaning on it. The two children ran over to Nimrod who was still stood to attention at the back of his Land Rover. There he gave them what looked to me to be some peanuts. The two children charged back to the wall to join the Foxton’s and Mrs Cooper. Then the two kids started to throw out the peanuts over the wall towards the badger sett. I couldn’t see what was happening over the wall from where I was, but going by all the oohs and aahs and “aren’t they lovely granddad?” I knew the badgers were there. The little group were oblivious to the North wind that had started to blow with some force and the drizzling rain that came with it. I could hear the wind rushing through the trees. After what seemed about forty minutes they returned to the Land Rover. The two kids encouraging Alexandra who was obviously their mother and the constant reassurance from Mrs Cooper they were all back in their Land Rover and soon away followed by Nimrod.
These badgers were the convalescence of a paraplegic and on the evidence I had just witnessed, it was a tonic from nature which was obviously, almost magically getting results that the attraction and pull that these creatures can evoke had obviously created something for Alexandra and her children to hang onto.
As I lay there in my sleeping bag, the 18th, the full Hunters Moon was going to be the night the baiters were going to attack this sett. I just knew it. This was going to be difficult and after what I had just seen had made it even more difficult. These badgers were irreplaceable. Their charm, charisma and adoring nature was what was getting Alexandra out of her wheel chair. And the thing that was niggling me more than anything was the connection between Mrs Cooper and the Foxtons’.
Badger keeping stag.
An old Cotswold poacher’s slang-saying for keeping watch.