David Beeson, 25th January 2023
Several people locally have asked about badger sets and badger watching, so I today explored one I first saw 40 years ago … it is still modestly active.
Grid ref of starting point: SU413 429 – A footpath and start of a part of the Test Way. It is on the A303 to Wherwell road the B3048.
Parking is not easy and there are lots of warning signs if you go under the old railway bridge.
The Test Way is signed and it skirts Patchington Piggery and all the grot associated with it. This is not the most attractive part of Harewood Forest!
Follow the footpath for about 2/3Km and you will see some sheds just appearing along the concrete path / old roadway. The set is in and around the chalk pit on your right. I watched here once and had young badgers sniffing my feet.
GR: SU405 427 approx.
What will you see? Many of the holes are unused and will show old leaves etc. Used entrances are obvious and you’ll spot some fresh bedding (leaves) and the groove made as excavations are dumped outside … producing the obvious mounds seen here. Look too for the small diggings – some for food (worms especially) others have excrement in them. I did not check today, but you should see scratchings on tree trunks as they sharpen claws.
You will notice the holes are far larger than those used by rabbits and the excavations more extensive. No rabbit droppings, either.
In summer the environment is often covered by stinging nettles that thrive with the diggings and extra faecal nutrients.
Badgers prefer to dig sets on hillsides.
Some holes show signs of human activity, possibly from badger baiting or just to be nasty. Fox hunters fill in sets to keep out foxes and I’ve found cyanide tins and one spring trap in the old near Forest Edge.
It is not a set for many to watch at once, but in pairs it should be ok. Best time is around Easter as youngsters are just above ground. Dusk – be in place at least half an hour before. No perfume etc. Keep downwind of the set and be patient, badgers do not always come out to order. Even BBCs Winter Watch’s badgers failed to come out during several programmes.
There used to be other badger holes in and around the chicken sheds just beyond this set. These are small offshoots used by subordinate females / males.
Do have an explore now to prepare for an Easter watch.