Land Manager's Diary: Read it here>

We returned to Sweden Wood at Ambleside yesterday with the volunteers. This is a unique woodland, not only for its views and tranquillity, but because it has a series of ha-ha walls that archaeologists think were built as part of a Victorian garden in the mid 1800s. Our tasks for the day were to remove the few remaining tree tubes, and clear the area in front of the walls of vegetation to stop it encroaching on the walls. 

Pictured: Our tireless volunteers clearing bracken in front of a ha-ha wall

We were helped by our trusty new strimmer which made relatively light work of the brambles and bracken.

Pictured: Our new electric strimmer makes light work of the bracken

Pictured: Bracken clearance is fast work with our super strimmer

Wandering around the wood first thing, it was felt like the day shift was taking over from the night shift…

There was ample evidence that the badgers had been out (tracks, setts, patches of fur), the rabbits were around, something had enjoyed a meal of a bird and a smaller animal, and the squirrels had enjoyed eating cob nuts and leaving the husks in the tree tubes! It felt more like we had invaded the home of the animals, than the other way round. 

Pictured: Badger fur

That got us thinking about the badgers and what we know about them. Most of us only see them dead by the side of the road and many people have a dislike of them altogether, e.g. for digging up gardens and land, and being linked to the spread of Tuberculosis. But to many people they are beautiful creatures, ones that often feature in children’s books, but as they spend up to 70% of their time underground are rarely seen in daytime. Badgers predominantly live on earthworms which make up 60-80% of their diet, so in a single night can eat as many as 200 worms! They are omnivores, eating plants and meat, typically, as well as worms, daddy long legs, slugs, small mammals, snails, bird eggs and fruit.

Pictured:  Apples are providing a tasty treat for badgers

Badgers have a sense of smell 800 times sharper than a human, so will easily sniff out food. Like many mammals, they can swim but prefer not to, using bridges and logs over becks rather than crossing them. Many badgers are very social creatures and live in groups called a cete or clan. A clan shares territory and setts. Setts can be centuries old and are used by many generations of badgers. One sett can be 22 to 109 yards (20 to 100 meters). Interestingly, badgers comfort their young during thunderstorms, with one report suggesting  after a huge clap of thunder, a 6-month-old cub put his paws over his ears and the other badgers sat around the cub to comfort him. 

For those of you who may be worrying that we have removed all the blackberries, a favourite of badgers, rest assured, there are still lots left for the badgers to snack on…