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Innovative infrared filming by the BBC captures the reclusive, elusive badger - rather as Kenneth Grahame described him


A young badger

In the Wind in the Willows Kenneth Grahame seems to have guessed a number of things about a badger’s life underground that a BBC film documents for the first time.

Though Grahame’s Badger was a bachelor, he was convivial, as are the Devon badgers in the BBC documentary. He lived, like them, in a vast network of underground passages and chambers. The BBC badgers live in underground quarters below an acre of bluebell wood in Devon. They bring food such as apples home with them, though scientists long believed they did not. Grahame’s Badger, too, is well-supplied with edibles. The BBC's Secrets of the Setts reveals “that badgers make their beds before they go out. ‘Before they leave the sett, they roll up the hay, presumably to air it,’” says film producer Andrew Cooper.

Or as Grahame wrote,

Badger conducted the two animals to a long room that seemed half bedchamber and half loft. The Badger's winter stores, which indeed were visible everywhere, took up half the room - piles of apples, turnips, and potatoes, baskets full of nuts, and jars of honey; but the two little white beds on the remainder of the floor looked soft and inviting, and the linen on them, though coarse, was clean and smelt beautifully of lavender; and the Mole and the Water Rat, shaking off their garments in some thirty seconds, tumbled in between the sheets in great joy and contentment.

The BBC film, which airs February 15 and 17, is narrated by David Attenborough and written and filmed by Cooper. He is an award-winning wildlife film-maker and the author of several popular books.

Quite invisible to most of us, there are more than 300,000 badgers in Britain. “Their tracks and trails criss-cross the countryside and many of their paths have probably been in regular use since Roman times.” Again, Grahame seems to have intuited this as well, for after he had shown Mole the buried city under the Wild Wood where he had made his house, Badger remarks –

`People come - they stay for a while, they flourish, they build - and they go. It is their way. But we remain. There were badgers here, I've been told, long before that same city ever came to be. And now there are badgers here again. We are an enduring lot, and we may move out for a time, but we wait, and are patient, and back we come. And so it will ever be.'