I'm at war with badgers. Badgers! My previous knowledge of badgers was previously exclusively a) kids TV shows of my childhood (Animals of Farthing Wood / Bodger & Badger) and b) a surreal conversation about badgers and the Bronte sisters both having TB in a brilliant scene in I'm Alan Partridge ("Heathcliff, pang! Then he really would be 'wuthering'."). Until now...
A couple of weeks ago, Jo and I were woken up at 2am by what sounded like burglars scaling our fences and / or a fight in our garden. We have beach pebbles instead of grass, so you can really hear any movement out there. In the morning, all Jo's vegetables and herbs grown from either tiny plugs or, more depressingly, painstakingly from seeds, were in a mess - squashed, pulled up, strewn about the garden. It was, I'm not going to lie, absolutely crushing.
There was also a huge hole in the fence on one side of the garden. We had seen badgers patrolling a few streets away from us the week before. They had to be the culprits.
My Dad came round and spied an entry point. Lots of the gardens in Leigh back onto old coal paths, and sure enough, there was another hole by the fence that went onto the coal path. Dad stuffed it with sandbags and some handy lumps of concrete we had left over from getting new garden gates put in. He shored up the other fence-hole, mainly to shield a beautiful bright pink Japanese anemone that would be too upsetting to lose.
Then night came... Jo and I woke with a start at 3am this time. It sounded like someone was out in the garden splitting wood with an axe. It sounded really close to our bedroom, as close as our new garden gates are. Our new garden gates that cost us a few hundred quid. We winced as we heard wood being forced, shoved and split. Jo rushed to the window and bellowed into the dark. I saw them run off - huge things, as big as dogs - and we finally got to sleep about 4.30am. Thankfully, upon waking in the morning, we saw it wasn't our expensive new gates being broken up, but it *was* yet another fence panel.
Every time we've repaired a gap, they've smashed a new entry and exit. So for the past week, we've left the holes for them. It's a defeatist temporary measure, like we're saying "Come on in mate. The floor is yours." They're still kicking up plants and knocking over pots. THEY ARE A BLIMMIN' NIGHTMARE. Now, Leigh-on-Sea readers, everyone we've spoken to has a badger story. They're rife at the moment. You can look down all the gardens in my road and see a perfect line of huge holes bashed through fences. They're tearing up people's lawns. They're strutting round town like a band of hoodlums, wreaking havoc. Word on the street is that someone is feeding them cat food, nooooo! I get that they're a protected species and look cute in pictures but my plants and fences have been utterly ruined, causing expensive damage that its quite frankly, getting to me.
People have told us to do all sorts: chicken wire on the fences. Sprinkle man-wee in the garden (woman wee isn't good enough, even NATURE is patriarchal, jokes). Put down hard plastic spikes around the entry points. Get new fences that are stronger (hashtag have no money). We had a self-titled 'badger man' come over and inspect the place and he told us that concrete boards at the base of fences is the way forward. Someone on the badger-woe grapevine told us that the big Tesco on the arterial was built on protected land that had many, many badger setts (yes I'm shading the huge corporate supermarket, shame on them) and as a result, for years, they've been terrorising the streets of Leigh as they were turfed out of their homes by developments. It's like the REAL LIFE Animals of Farthing Wood.
I guess the point of me writing this was to see what other people have experienced - what's worked? What hasn't worked? Have you also thought it was axe-wielding burglars at 3am, and then found out it was a badger, a very middle class badger clearly, because they've eaten all our kale, Thai basil and pak choi and frankly, what's more Leigh-on-Sea than that?To read Ray's previous blogs please click here