Monday, 25 August 2014

A Badger’s Royal Icing

The end of this August has been as cold as any that I can remember.  Last week I saw the remnants of a light frost down in the valley, alongside the river.  It was hard to believe that it was only the 21st August. 
The Coopers will soon be vacating the woodland.  Their summer time stake out surveillance of my Badger sett is starting to get too uncomfortable and hardly safe for people of their age, much to their annoyance.  The cold nights have come around much earlier.  The Badgers on the other hand seem to be really enjoying the cooler nights.  Such a marked contrast from the hot, sticky, sultry summer nights of just three weeks ago. 
There is something always so very fascinating about the changing of the seasons.  As many times as I have experienced each season slipping out of one and effortlessly easing into another, I have never ever seen the same season twice.  Always a differential.  Always a different starting date to the season that’s about to begin and the season that has just ended.  Nature’s way of always keeping us guessing, always unpredictable, which brings me nicely around to the behaviour of my Badgers.
A week or so ago, Daddy Cool moved his family from the Northern boundary on the outskirts of the woodland back deep inside to his stomping grounds much favoured for the middle of winter.  His actions however, had left me quite bemused.  Surely his weather predictions couldn’t be more accurate than Liam Dutton’s of Channel 4 News?  The weather, although cold for the end of August, but still nowhere near cold enough for him to be thinking of battening down the hatches deep inside the woodland ready for the onslaught of winter. 
The woodland is still in full canopy, the leaves not yet starting to turn and yet the Badgers’ behaviour strikes me as being quite odd. 
On Thursday night as I drove up to my house from work I saw a Land Rover parked outside my house which I instantly recognized as Nimrod’s, a Keeper friend of mine for many years.  I parked up just behind it and went inside the house through the back door into the kitchen where I found Jackie, my wife and Nimrod deep in conversation.  On entering the kitchen, Nimrod wasted no time in explaining to me the reason for him calling round.  There were rustlers and poachers in this vicinity of The Cotswolds.  He then went on to tell me about six fat lambs that he had had stolen from the Foxton Estate and two bullocks that had been miraculously exempt from the whole ordeal due mainly to the amount of bellowing they had created while the thieves were trying to load them.  Jackie piped up with “They’ve informed the police and everyone has been told to remain vigilante.” Immediately my thoughts were elsewhere and Daddy Cool’s odd behaviour now started to make sense.  “That’s why Daddy Cool has moved his family back deep inside the woodland, he had sensed that the poachers were getting too close,” I thought to myself.
“Why are you so silent?” asked Nimrod, “Just sat there looking into space, are you interested or not?”
“Oh I am very interested and I think I know where they will turn up next.  The herd of Roe deer between here and Beech Wyn have been targeted.”
“What makes you so sure?” asked Nimrod.
“The recent behaviour of one so close tells me, I just know the Roe deer will be the poachers’ next prize.  What are you doing tonight Nimrod?”
“Oh no Allan, no Allan, these nightly excursions with you always end the same, I am always explaining to the police and Lord Foxton and trying to justify the carnage you leave in your wake in the best possible interest of all concerned.”
I asked him again, “are you coming or not?”
“Ok, I will. About what time?
“7pm,” I replied. Nimrod reluctantly nodded and off he went.  
“Jackie, I want you to ring Mr and Mrs Cooper and invite them over here for the evening, I cannot have them up in the woods tonight.”
“Oh thanks Allan, what’s the reason I am asking them over?”
“I don’t know Jackie, you’ll think of something, you always do,” and giving her a quick kiss on the cheek I went out up to the garden shed where I found a couple of half empty tins of white gloss paint.  “This will do nicely,” I thought. 
Nimrod turned up at 7pm on the dot. “Which vehicle are we travelling in?” asked Nimrod.
“Shanks pony,” I replied.  “You carry this,” and I handed him one of the tins of gloss, “and I’ll carry this one.”
“What the hell is this for?” asked Nimrod knowing that there were going to be more explanations afoot from this evening’s escapades.
“All will be revealed if and when we see anything.”  Nimrod sighed.
As we walked along the sides of the hedges, through the fields of freshly combined cereal, the swathes of straw in gun barrel straight lines left from the combines, we both reminisced of summer nights passed when we played with all the other village kids on the flat 8 bales that had been left by the sledges on the back of the balers.  The dens we would all build and the Mr Wolf games we would all play. Magical days seemingly gone forever now with the ghost-like Cotswold villages mainly occupied by weekend second home city dwellers.  Capitalism had reached the villages many years previous with local people unable to buy the homes of their birth place and ever increasingly larger farm machinery making more and more farm labourers redundant. 
When we arrived nearer to Beech Wyn, the course of action was explained.  Nimrod was to go up to the Northern side of the woodland and I was to be down on the Southern side of the woodland.  There the vantage points were thus so that a wide angle of countryside could be surveyed.  Off Nimrod went and off I went.  I soon found a good hiding place in the bottom of a couple of Hawthorn trees.  Listening to the birds who soon gave way to the night time excursions of the bats.  The sun seems to go down much faster once the middle of August has been past.  The hours passed slowly and soon we were well into the night.  The time now was about 12:45 when my phone rang.  It was Nimrod.  “I can see lights,” he said quietly.  I told Nimrod I was on my way.  I left my position and sneaked up the side of the woodland towards Nimrod.  After about fifteen minutes I could hear, “psst psst.”  I looked over in the direction it came from and there was Nimrod standing in the throne of Daddy Cool’s, an old Ash stom.  I got up in there with him.  I too could now see the lights.  “That’s heavy duty torches,” I whispered to Nimrod. 
“I know,” he replied
“But where’s their vehicle?” I asked. 
“They stopped it down by the river.  Shall we start shouting now?” 
“No,” I replied, “We’ve got to get to their vehicle.”  The torches were getting nearer. 
“We’ve got to watch this,” said Nimrod rather nervously, “We don’t want to get ourselves shot.  With those torches you can guarantee they’ve either got rifles or crossbows.”
“I know.” I agreed.  The torches were now getting ever nearer and even from a vast distance some of the trunks of the big Beech trees were being lit up.
“We’re not going to be able to do this,” said Nimrod.  I could see that he was starting to get anxious and concerned. 
“Get hold of your paint pot and follow me.”   Out of Daddy Cool’s throne we climbed.  Nimrod followed me closely down through the woodland.  Over fallen trees deeper inside the woodland we went, our progression, although the wood was thick was speedy and soon we were climbing over the fence at the bottom side of the wood into the river meadows.  We ran across the river meadow to the river and then up alongside the river to where Nimrod thought their vehicle was parked.  We were both now completely out of breath and I knew that they must have reached the Northern boundary of Beech Wyn by now.  We then heard a couple of shots from a .22 rifle followed by two or three more. 
“Where’s this blasted vehicle?” I snapped round at Nimrod knowing full well that time was of the essence. If we didn’t do what we had to do soon, more animals would be shot.
“I saw them extinguish their lights around here, or so I thought.”
“Well it will be either a truck or a van, how difficult to see can it be? Look Nimrod, for goodness sake look.”  Nimrod was bent double out of breath.  Just then, seven Roe deer came running out of the wood. They ran through the river meadow at quite a lick and as we turned to watch the running deer we saw the dark shape tucked right tight in by the hedge.  The deer ran straight past, they had no intention of stopping. 
“There it is,” I pointed to the dark shape in the gloom.  We ran up to the vehicle and without hesitation, I prized open the lids of the paint with my penknife.  I started to pour the paint all over the vehicle. Nimrod just stood there. “Quick Nimrod, we haven’t got much time.” Nimrod groaned, and reluctantly picked up his pot and started pouring also. The paint was running all down the sides, all over the bonnet and all over the windscreen.  The vehicle was a black double cab pickup but now resembled a large cake with runny royal icing. I then espied an iron bar in the back.
“Right Nimrod, start shouting and hollering as loud as you can.”  I reached in and picked up the iron bar and started to bang as loud as I could on the side of the vehicle.  In the dead of night, this was a hell of a row.  Then we saw the three torches coming back across the fields from the Northern boundary.  As we watched the torch lights bobbing up and down we knew that the perpetrators were running hell for leather back to their vehicle. 
“Let’s go,” shouted Nimrod.
“Ring the police and tell them that you have stopped some poachers and their vehicle is covered in white gloss paint.  From here they will be going up through Stow on the Wold.”
“What are you doing?” asked Nimrod.
“I will see you at the weekend, thanks Nimrod.”
As I jogged back down the river, I had one more thing to do before I headed home. “I must check on my Badgers.” I thought.

Please watch my short film of my Badgers playing on a log deep inside the woodland.

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