Normally I’m to be found with a monstrous sized fantasy epic close at hand, but with the current battle over the badger cull, my own involvement with helping out with a vaccination programme and the realisation that I actually know very little really about these beautiful animals, when I stumbled across Patrick Barkham’s Badgerlands: The Twilight World of Britain’s most Enigmatic Animal, on Amazon I decided to set aside tales of magic, battle and prophecy and turn my attention to this book.
Throughout the book Barkham explores our relationship with badgers through history, documenting their arrival in Britain, the fierce persecution they have faced down the ages and those individuals who have devoted their lives to studying or caring for this iconic creature.
The author documents his experiences with those who have encountered badgers, for better or for worse, from scientists who have devoted their lives to studying Meles meles, to farmers forced into shutdown by bTB, to old ladies whose preferred company are the badgers they feed every night. His book creates a perfectly unbiased picture of how we view the badger in today’s world. In his quest to seek out all sides of our relationship with badgers Barkham even braves the culinary ‘delight’ of badger stir-fry! The balanced way in which he presents both sides of an argument extends to his coverage of the issue of culling badgers, which was rather refreshing and thought provoking, and after careful consideration when he does reveal what he thinks may be the best way to tackle bTB, he presents the evidence that has helped him reach that conclusion.
What I found most appealing throughout the book was Barkham’s personal journey into Badgerland. He admits from the start to having never seen a badger in the wild, something I think many of us, sadly, can relate to. His accounts of bumbling around in the dark, stepping on twigs or perching uncomfortably in trees are wonderfully charming. Even when he fails to spot any stripy faces he still documents his experiences with nature, capturing the essence of the British countryside beautifully.
There is something captivating and endearing about the way Barkham writes; handling a sometimes sensitive subject well, whilst painting a vivid picture of what it is like to be out searching for the elusive Brock. This book is a must read for anyone who has any interest in badgers and I will be adding a copy of Barkham’s first book to my Christmas list.