A rare and unique chance to view some beautiful creatures availed itself and a few of us took the opportunity to be led deep into the heart of the ancient parkland known as Dinefwr. These are my badger musings from within the cabin overlooking one pure, green and bumpy sett. Giggles and chattering had to be stifled from the minute we entered the secret place, the Hide.
As the whispering faded into the evening, we could hear the “Whoo, Whoo, Whoo” from a feathered resident in a distant tree. But then Badger Woman Sarah spreads a blanket of peanuts over the grassy hillocks and sleeping tree trunks. We, the occupants, listened keenly. Breeze rustling the fern, no more standing to attention but wavering. Looking up, I spot oak leaf starred leaves, dribbling from branches. So much to interest us.
Climbing back up through the fern, fringed bank, over knobbly anthills, Sarah rejoins us. We wait patiently. I glance over and notice curly, twirling ferns, unfurling their fingers in anticipation. Were they, too, awaiting a badger gathering? Overhead, there was the distant sound “Caw, Caw” – perhaps a belligerent crow?
We did not have to wait long. Peeping out, we had our first view of a small badger. It peeks out one long snout, sniffs the air. Sneaks back in. Not time yet. Snuffles some more and peers out again. Is the coast clear? No, not yet. It creeps back in again.
“Squeak, Squeak, Squeak” another bird yet again breaks the silent breath of the inhabitants, not the badgers, but the human onlookers. This bird heralds the impending arrival of a lone badger. Long and slinky, this badger snuffles for dinner, spots a solitary peanut and heads for it. Then, not long to wait. Badger No. 2 peaks out, its white stripe much sharper than its brother’s. Moving in parallel they shuffle around the hillock, browned and dry from recent sunshine.
Then, soon we spy another badger, I shall call him No. 3, slinking out, circling its way around. The badger turns around and looks back the way it has come. Facing the front, it snuffles again, close to the ground, dusting its snout as it goes. It backs up the brown sandy bank side, definitely in reverse, and disappears, almost silently. But here comes another brother, or a cousin maybe? No. 4 meanders under the dead tree trunk that is suspended, almost in mid air. It snuffles around in the undergrowth, good pickings here, unaware of a bird tip toeing around above its head. The bird, no doubt, spotting a tasty morsel, maybe another peanut, is oblivious, too. We have seen four badgers, their fur the colour brown that sludges moodily into grey dust. For a minute, they all disappear back into the holes from whence they came, whether under a bark or near the bank side.
Another hole, and yet again here we see a badger, not sure of the number, but I suspect that it could be No. 1 again as the stripe on its head is dirty white. One wonders whether the holes are like pot holes in the road, ready to trip one up? No, not these badgers, eating their peanuts, they do not think they will fall down any pot holes, if they can help it! And so, we have seen four badgers in this group and a loner smuggling its way around on the left side, near to bracken, foxgloves, and long grasses walled up the edge, framing the hideout.
Frolicking in the tufty grasses and disappearing again, badger No. 4, recognisable by its fanned out tail, blonde and beautiful, whispers to itself unaware that badger No. 3 whose tail is bushier and not so contoured, is munching one of the last peanuts behind him.
A lone, miniscule, green insect inches its way around on the ledge in front of my silent pen, winds its route around my notebook and disappears into a convenient crack. Perhaps he is wondering what is happening? I suspect he is too small to be interested.
Scurrying back in, the badgers disappear again for a short time; maybe the food supply has run out? But not for long, here they are again, one scouting off over the hillside, its own territory. Agile and speedy, they skim over the debris that is fallen branches, gnarled by long time silence and sleep, scurrying into their own hiding places.
I wonder what their corridors are like, underneath our feet, silent as the grave, no whisperings here. Do they link and twirl and pass over and under each other? I imagine that their pathways must be like secret underground trails linking to others’ burrows!
In the distance, there is the cawking sound again and a rotund lorry rumbles through the peace as it traverses its way along the road perhaps only a mile away to the west.
But my attention is brought back to the three badgers around the arch of a crescent tree trunk, girthed brown and spangled. The branch appears to hover over the youngsters. Yet again, we see snuffling and pointed snouts tunnelling the ground pushing out morsels of tasty pickings. But No. 2 has spotted a snifter of a peanut, only one, perhaps, and this lying on top of the gnarled trunk. It is soon devoured; this is one adventurous badger. Its brothers, not so daring, are under the trunk nosing out their own findings. Their brown grey sludgy bodies and fluffy caramel tails brightened by evening sunshine. We see them tiptoeing around the sun speckled grassy bank; and it is not even twilight. Their nose to tail, tail to nose, formation proceeds slowly but then they turn in, snout to snout, brothers in arms, or so I like to think.
Foxgloves, nettles and fern jostle for attention to the left of this most rustic scene, framing the edge as we glance down into the dell. One badger scrambles up, I have forgotten its number, and scratches its hind quarters, sniffs, scrambles some more and drops over the bank. I again wonder about their colour. One side steps and pushes, with a friendly shoulder, its brother out of the way as it has spotted yet another peanut.
Over our heads, I can hear the hum as a bee bumbles perhaps heralding the sun going down. And so as I glance sideways, I spot the rhododendrons, pretty with lots to love, but unrequited on the part of others, I fear. I hear the distant baa, baa of a sheep in the pasture of the valley and I notice how green everything is here. So bright, leafy and hillock green. Maybe not fifty shades but a more realistic number could be identified, if I could be bothered to count! The long grass is wafting in a breeze that has started singing its tune and we wonder if the show is over?
So as we, the tired seers, walk back we notice the magnificent White Park group grazing in what remains of the evening sunshine. Their gentleness adds to the atmosphere and the mystery of the historic parkland. And yet more abandoned trunks, their silent bark shaped into the dead wood that is home to tiny creatures, lead us back through the deer valley with new fawns silently visible. As I walk, I spot more knotted branches, hurled and twisted around and left to wink at no one in particular. And we hear, but can hardly see, the birds fleeting past on their journey to say the day is silently moving towards its evening conclusion. The show is indeed over.