As the sun begins to sink I walk with the group down to the Loder Valley. There’s an air of expectation as we never really know how the evening will develop – nature, as we know, can be unpredictable.
But, whatever unfolds, spending time at dusk in a wood is always magical, and even more so if we are lucky enough to see badgers emerge from their setts and start foraging.
It’s a 15 minute walk down to the badger watching hide, and a pretty steep climb on the way back. Visitors do need to be reasonably fit, and sturdy footwear is essential, but it’s worth it for this magical woodland experience.
On the walk to the hide I talk not only about Wakehurst’s badgers, but also about the other wildlife that makes its home here too.
Inside the hide we take up our seats and begin our wait. I will have visited the hide earlier in the day to place some peanuts near the viewing window to entice the badgers out for a tasty treat.
As soon as the first boar emerges there are gasps of wonder. I try to encourage everyone to be as quiet as possible so as not to frighten the badgers - they are extremely timid. But once out in the darkness they come right to the front of the viewing window and sometimes it feels as if they are eating off your lap!
Badgers are very special creatures and sadly many people never have the privilege of seeing them in the wild. These lovely animals are built for burrowing and are sometimes referred to as nature’s digging machines. They have powerful forelimbs and tough claws that help them dig for food and of course to excavate their setts – the large underground tunnel systems where they live during the day.
Once the last peanut has been consumed we head out into the dark for our walk back. Our senses become heightened to the smells of wild garlic and we can hear the squeaking of tawny owlets in the old oak trees.
These evenings are not just a chance to see Wakehurst’s lovely badgers, but visitors can enjoy immersing themselves in the woodlands and experiencing a whole new world coming to life after dark.