Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Tales from the Old Rectory... badgers.

One day last year, I arrived at work to find the Client distraught, and large holes scraped in the lawn. She said it had started four or five days earlier (I only go there once a week), and they had no idea what was causing the damage - obviously it was some form of wild life, but it was considerably bigger than any previous squirrel damage. And it's a walled garden. Tall walls. All the way round.

I set off on a quick survey of the garden, and found two separate piles of animal poo - not small and currant-like from rabbits, but not squishy and disgusting like dog or cat poo either, in fact they looked somewhat like a pile of nuts. Now, the previous year, elsewhere in the same village, I'd seen this: there are badgers down by the ford, and for some weeks they had taken a fancy to trespassing on one of my other gardens, doing the same sort of damage and leaving the same latrine piles.

But it's a walled garden!

Had either of the gates been left open, I asked? No - the big solid gate between the outhouses is permanently bolted and padlocked, and the metal gate, which is my access, is always locked up at night.

OK, I said, they must be getting in somewhere, I will go and find the weak spot. Not as hard as it sounds - it's a two-acre garden, but the walls are high, so unless the badgers are good climbers, or have learned to pole-vault, there can't be many places where they can get in.

All was solid until I came to the Gate bed. 

Ah... the Gate Bed.

So-called because there used to be a gateway to the former tied cottage next door, presumably for the convenience of the gardener. It had an old solid wooden gate across it, and some sheet metal on the other side, but oh look! There it was, a wide, shallow scrape under the wood, where some large animal had clearly squeezed underneath.

Pausing only to do the Badger dance, I rushed off to tell the Client that I had identified the culprit,  had located the weak point, and would suggest that they block it securely in the middle of the day, ensuring that no badgers were trapped inside the garden, then replace the gate. I further suggested that they should reinforce the threshold to prevent any more digging.

Next week, I arrived to find this:

Lovely, isn't it? Looks just like a door, but it isn't: after digging out and laying four rows of bricks as a badger-proof threshold, the Client's husband had nailed some planks over the hole, then added hinges, a thumb-latch and a bolt. All completely fake. It does not open.

But doesn't it look great!

It's attention to detail that makes the difference, and instead of merely blocking the hole, he took the trouble to add a few props and turn it into a feature, making the Gate bed worthy of the name.

And the badgers never came back.

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