History of the Whitworth badgers

Although "Whitworth badgers" sounds like the name of a football team, I'm talking about real badgers, the wonderful black and white mammal with 4 short legs!

Art work by Whitworth artist Brian Clegg

Image created by Brian Clegg Whitworth artist

Until the mid 1880s badgers were a common site in Whitworth and the rest of Rossendale (Lancashire) and there were even reports of a few wild boar and deer. Sadly, in 1898 the last badger was killed by cruel badger baiters, and its head was mounted in a local public house, possibly the Egerton Arms in Ashworth Valley, Rochdale. No wonder these magnificent creatures have a natural fear of mankind.

Fortunately this all changed in the 1950s. At that time farmers in Cheshire were encouraged to grow wheat, but the local badger setts created many problems for them. In particular, the tractors and other heavy machinery often caused the collapse of the badgers' tunnels, resulting in much 'down time' for the farm machinery.

Once it had been established that badgers would thrive in Whitworth, the badgers were humanely trapped and released throughout Whitworth (as either pairs or families) over a period of 15 years, from 1953 - 1968. Whitworth is non agricultural land and is surrounded by vast tracts of open moors, so the badgers would not cause any inconvenience. Open moorland is not normally the badgers' natural home, but nevertheless they thrive here.

The Lancashire Badger Group has located and recorded more than 150 active setts throughout Rossendale. There are many badgers in Bacup and Whitworth. 'Our' badgers visit nightly from early spring to late autumn for their gourmet meals of peanuts, sultanas and tinned dog food.

It's hard to imagine why anyone would want to harm these wonderful creatures, but as Badger says in Wind in the Willows after disturbances by man "It is their way. But we remain. There were badgers here, I've been told, long before. And 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."

All the Rossendale badger setts are regularly monitored by police and volunteers

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Badger image © Brian Clegg