Badger with taste for good life wrecks historic estate

TOP gardeners have entered into a battle of wits with a badger which has caused thousands of pounds of damage at one of Suffolk's finest estates.

Laurence Cawley

TOP gardeners have entered into a battle of wits with a badger which has caused thousands of pounds of damage at one of Suffolk's finest estates.

Staff at Ickworth Park, near Bury St Edmunds, are trying to out wit the badger in the renowned Italianate gardens for the past three months. They have now resorted to laying paving slabs as part of a bid to ward off the persistent pest.

The National Trust gardens, near Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, have been invaded by the uninvited visitor on numerous occasions and it has caused damage to lawns and dug up bee and wasp nests.

Ickworth head gardener Sean Reid said the “pesky” creature had also dug up 400 newly planted bulbs.

But the gardeners at the historic house are confident their spring display will be as stunning as ever - if plans to outwit their nemesis is successful.

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“Every year we plant 400 autumn crocus bulbs in the lawns, ready for the spring,” said Mr Reid. “This year was no exception and the volunteers got hard to work, plugging each individual bulb into its little hole.

“We were proud of our work and looking forward to seeing the flowers come up, until the shock discovery that the cheeky badger had struck again and dug up every single one of our 400 bulbs.”

Mr Reid said he has been attempting to outwit the badger by blocking access to the formal gardens.

“I've been putting down piles of leaves to see where it gets in and have found its entrance under the metal gate,” he added.

“I've already blocked it up once and the determined thing dug up the bricks and found his way in again, so this time we're concreting paving slabs in and I'm hopeful that'll do the job.”

So far, the paving slab manoeuvre appears to have outwitted the badger and the team at Ickworth are desperately awaiting a spell of wet weather to soften the soil so that the bulbs can be replanted.

“It is lucky we had 2,000 of these bulbs and had only planted 400 of them when we discovered this young male badger was digging them back up. We have planted some more of them but we will be waiting for wetter weather to plant them in the bedded areas.”

National Trust nature conservation adviser Stuart Warrington said: “We know there are badger setts in the park at Ickworth and they've got a fantastic protected habitat here where they can flourish so it is a bit annoying they're making a beeline for the 5% of the estate that we'd prefer to keep badger-free.”

He said young boars (male badgers) were a little more adventurous than the rest of the colony, which helped explain why Ickworth had experienced its recent troubles.

He said: “They're at that age when they either have to establish their own set or become subservient in their family group, so you often find them a bit further afield than normal, looking for food and testing out places that might make a good new home.”