I like to enjoy the last hour or so of daylight walking through the woods behind our cottage, and ending up on the beach in the twilight. The damp air is sweet, and nature’s smells are more intense, as I carefully tread my way along the narrow footpaths hoping for a few minutes alone with badgers. The vibrancy of summer has gone, and the dampness and decay of autumn has produced an abundance of mosses, liverworts and lichens, which live as epiphytes on the bark of trees. Beautiful and much smaller lichens and fungi make up a subtle mosaic on the woodland floor.
Few birds stir, just blackbirds disturb the silence with their roosting alarm calls, and wrens scald in the undergrowth. I know that on the way back in the darkness, I’ll hear invisible tawny owls, and maybe a fox or two, but for the moment I make for the badger sett just above the beach and wait. There’s no point in looking for badgers with the wind towards them, but the night is still, and from this favourite spot, I’m confident. As always they emerge very slowly, nervously sniffing the evening air. In the fading light I make out at least six, four fully grown and two playful cubs. They rarely stay long at the entrance to the sett, and are gone after a few minutes. I’m more than happy with my secret encounter with a truly wild animal, which makes the slog back up the hill past the tawny owls much easier to handle.