Badgers, kestrels & Saxon ghosts

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My October began with a glorious ramble through the North Downs in Surrey, surrounded by glittering sunshine and mist. This year I became a member of the West Surrey Badger Group, and we were enjoying a sponsored walk to raise money for the Badger Trust on National Badger Day. We spent a beautiful afternoon clambering through woodland to find active setts, only improved by the consumption of a white Magnum atop Newlands Corner. After eight pleasant miles I had clearly overdosed on fresh air, and almost fell asleep in front of Downton that evening.. (Fear not, I didn’t.)

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IMG_6536(Photos above taken by Martin D’Arcy & Alex Learmont)

At one point we found a bunch of sloe bushes absolutely brimming with berries. If I hadn’t already made a litre of sloe gin I would have foraged some, but I’d prefer to stay awake at least until the cheeses come out this Christmas Day. We were also joined by a hovering kestrel floating about; I love their slender bodies and dark tear marks like bearded tits. We also attempted to identify fungi along the way, but let’s not talk about that.

I tend to go off on one about politics these days, so I won’t ruin these lovely pictures by discussing David Cameron. But it’s important to know that badgers are currently under threat for no good reason, and we must do everything we can to protect them. The Badger Trust were partly responsible for encouraging Wales to scrap culling and embrace vaccinations and biosecurity. Wales now have incredibly low bovine TB rates, yet our government don’t seem to spot the connection… Odd.

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Aside from great company, kestrels and ice cream, my favourite part of the walk was climbing up to  the Church of St Martha-on-the-hill, standing 573ft above sea level. The current building was built around 1087, but the site has been used for pre-Christian worship since the Bronze Age. There are even Druids’ circles hidden beneath the bracken on the south side of the hill! In Saxon times, a mysterious martyrdom took place there (no record of who died or why), and the church stands between two ancient roads, as pre-Roman trackways would have followed the highest ridges to avoid woodland and swamps.

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Thanks to the West Surrey Badger Group committee for organising such a fabulous event, and thanks to everyone who sponsored me!

I raised £90 – that’s 18 doses of badger vaccine!

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