I would not break down a fence but the other day I noticed the fence that borders the footpath was broken and lying flat on the ground, its barbed wire rendered harmless and I remembered that there was a large badger sett in this part of the wood, so I felt impelled to explore. I coaxed Jackie to come with me and we found ourselves in a natural habitat which had been allowed to evolve unimpeded for several years. What we ordinary people seldom realise is that for some favoured few the Garden of Paradise was never lost and it is possible in these places to enjoy the world of unspoilt countryside, where nature has evolved with the minimum of human interference. It felt like this as we stepped into this sanctuary on our doorstep. Well-worn badger tracks criss-crossed the wood, with tunnels channelling through the scrub which had grown up. The badgers had become lord and masters here, as was, of course, their hereditary right. It was interesting to see how woodland was gradually reclaiming open land and how this lay adjacent to climax woodland, which borders the high banks on the meandering Cobbler’s Brook. These banks were covered in Bluebells and Wood Anemone; I should imagine that the open field and wayside in this land will be a profusion of wildflowers in the summer. I remember, when this land was open to the public many years ago, I came across a pair of basking Grass Snakes and it is likely that this remains a haven for declining reptiles and amphibians.
Coming back onto the public footpath I was left wondering what harm there is in allowing people onto private land. I do think it is important that the public keep their side of the bargain though and it is sad to see dog poo left on paths for people to step on or, even worse, neatly bagged up and suspended from trees, where it will fester in plastic for months or years. If country users respect the simple rules, perhaps we will see more willingness on the part of owners to let us in.
As we walked up the path towards Ewhurst we found two newly excavated Badger holes in the bank. Nearby, hidden in a holly bush, was a recently used latrine and it was noticeable that a number of paths led into thick undergrowth. All of this is evidence of yet more Badgers but this time living less than ten minutes from home. The chances are that these occupations are outliers formed away from the main sett and used on an ad hoc basis. We decided to come down in the evening, to see if there was any activity.
Our first visit yielded nothing; maybe we were too early. The next trip a Roe Deer leapt out of the twilight shadows at the edge of the field, its dreamy shape disappearing into the woodland. Waiting by the holes for a while, nothing showed up, so we walked over the bridge to watch the field. There were two Rabbits grazing and we heard the call of a Cuckoo, some distance off. Making out movement in the crepuscular light we saw two foxes following the boundary line of the field, behaving in a playful manner. One of the foxes soon went into the wood, while the other stayed out in the field for some time as the dark descended. We went back to the Badger hole but they remained elusive. It is exciting to see a very different world open up as it gets dark and I am sure, as the season goes on, and it hopefully gets warmer, we will return to see more nocturnal creatures emerging at dusk.