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What to expect from a badger watching evening at the Food Museum in Stowmarket

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I tagged along for a badger watching evening hosted by the Food Museum in Stowmarket.

The museum has hosted a few of these badger-spotting events in the past and this was to be the first of the year. Going into it, I hoped the evening would be a success as I have never seen a badger in the wild before.

The sun was setting on a lovely spring evening and I met a small group of fellow beginner badger watchers who were waiting at the front of the Food Museum’s shop. Tom Peer, the museum’s conservation officer, began to talk us through the evening’s plans.

Badgers are the largest land carnivore in the UK
Badgers are the largest land carnivore in the UK

Tom took us on a short tour of the museum’s grounds before heading to the badger viewing hide. The group and I followed the uneven trail into the night, and I was shocked. How could this beautiful scenery of vast wildlife be hiding so close to the town centre?

Tom confirmed the grounds covered 84 acres of mostly untouched wildlife and nature. Rattlesden River sat on our left and a distinctive smell was to our right - wild garlic. The entire area was scattered with the pungent plant and we were welcomed to pick and snack on the tasty leaves.

We then turned back and began to walk towards the hide. However, the biggest question of the evening then entered my mind: what if the badgers didn’t turn up?

Photo captured by the Food Museum's Tom Peer
Photo captured by the Food Museum's Tom Peer

In the hide, we sat on our wooden stalls by 7.30pm and were directed to watch the spot directly in front of us for any movements. Quiet anticipation filled the air.

After 45 minutes of waiting and getting mistaken by badger-shaped shadows, I began to lose hope. Badgers are nocturnal animals who are most active in the early hours of the morning and our viewing experience was to finish by 9pm. Perhaps we were too early to see them. Or maybe they felt shy with the Stowmarket Fair booming in the distance.

Then a black and white head poked out the bush. And then another. It was amazing.

The duo started to sniff the ground and explore the area - foraging for food. A badger’s diet mostly consists of earthworms and one badger can eat up to 100 worms per night.

They also eat fruits and berries as Michael Stamper, the museum's food-growing officer, explained. He told us the museum’s raspberry patch had been ransacked a few times and he expected these badgers were possibly the perpetrators of a fruity theft.

As the two badgers continued to forage, Tom shared some fascinating facts about these monochrome creatures.

Badgers are incredibly house-proud. Their habitats, known as setts, consist of a vast network of burrows and tunnels and each area is used for a different purpose.

However, they do not use any of these rooms as a bathroom. Instead, they will dig a hole away from the sett and use that as a toilet - how civilised!

Badgers even take pride in keeping their bedding clean too. Similar to us, badgers love to sleep on fresh bedding, but their beds consist mostly of scavenged leaves and dry grass. Almost every night, badgers will remove their used beds and begin putting together a new one. This also prevents the build up of lice and fleas.

A badger's sense of smell is 800 times stronger than humans
A badger's sense of smell is 800 times stronger than humans

We left the badgers to continue their activities into the night and I was then able to catch up with Tom about Stowmarket’s fantastic wildlife. He said: “The amount of wildlife that lives here is crazy, because really it’s a green oasis in the middle of town.

"If you Google maps it, we’re just a green blotch right in the middle of the town."

He added that being able to showcase events like these was a privilege and that it is a great opportunity for the Stowmarket community to get involved with the local wildlife.

It was a wonderful evening and the Food Museum has lots of great events coming up.

From jam workshops, beer festivals and other community-based exhibitions, there is plenty to discover and more badger watching evenings to expect in the future.