Badger Watching Tewin Orchard
Deep in Tewin Orchard lies a mammal hide facing a sprawling badger sett of more than ten badgers. We are thrilled to offer an evening of badger watching here - a special night you’re sure to remember! As well as our resident badgers you are also likely to see foxes, owls and a variety of other wildlife in natural surroundings.
Badger Hide will reopen from 18th May 2021!
We are delighted to announce the badger hide will be reopening this year from 18th May to the end of October.
The badger hide is an enclosed building and so is considered an indoor setting. While we have UK Government restrictions in place, bookings are subject to the following restrictions:
- Maximum capacity per booking is "rule of 6" - either six people from different households or two households.
- We will be leaving 72 hours between visits - so the hide is only available on Tuesday and Saturday evenings.
Once all restrictions have been lifted we hope we can open up more dates to book.
It was like our own private Springwatch experience!2019
Whilst Coronavirus restrictions reduce the hide's capacity, we are unable to offer the badger watching sessions on a donation basis. For the rest of the 2021 season, the badger hide will cost £50 per booking to enable us to cover our costs. This pricing structure will be reviewed at the end of this season for 2022.
We also hope to be able to offer escorted family watching evenings later in the season. These events will be bookable through our main events page.
Please note at this time, Tewin Orchard remains closed to the public (until no earlier than 17th May). The main gate and hide are locked.
Making a Booking
Please read the attached Terms and Conditions before making a booking.
Demand for the badger hide is likely to be very high and with a very reduced capacity it is possible there may be no dates available to book. We are not currently running a waitlist and so advise to keep checking this page.
Badger Hide Booking - Terms and Conditions 2021
It was an amazing experience. So peaceful and great to be so close to nature2019
Find out more about badgers
Tewin Orchard and Hopkyns’ Wood Nature Reserve provides a great natural habitat for wildlife. Alongside the apple trees, butterflies and birds, the site is home to a much shyer creature – the badger.
Badgers are one of the larger members of the mustelid family which includes ferrets, otters and polecats and can grow up to one metre in size. Badgers have hefty reserves of fat that they increase during the autumn ahead of going into winter torpor – a state of decreased physiological activity with a reduced body temperature and metabolic rate. Badgers have a great sense of smell and, as with many mammals, they use scent to mark territory and communicate, having several scent glands which they use for identification. Whilst most nocturnal animals have large eyes to help them see in the dark, badgers’ eyes are fairly small which indicates that vision isn’t as important as their other senses. Badgers’ ears are also small in comparison to their bodies but they communicate using around 16 distinctive calls including growls, clucks, purrs and hisses. Badgers startle easily, suggesting that their hearing is relatively keen. Badgers are omnivores but their food of choice is earthworms – they can eat up to 200 a night. If worms are not so readily available badgers are extremely adaptable and opportunistic, feeding on berries, fruit, nuts, insects, small mammals and even fish.
A tidy home
Badgers use their long, powerful claws to dig underground burrows, called setts, where they live in large family groups or ‘clans’. The boundaries to these setts are marked by latrines which helps to avoid conflict with other badger clans. Setts can be hundreds of years old and are passed down through the generations, developing and growing depending on the needs of the clan at the time. Typically, clans will number around six adults, but can increase to over 10 depending on local resources. Badgers have also been known to share their setts with foxes or rabbits. Much like we tidy our bedrooms and change our bedsheets, badgers will drag out their old bedding – hay, grass and leaves – to prevent disease and lice. This means that they spend a lot of time collecting new bedding to replace the old, dragging material they find into their setts for warmth.
An occupied sett can be recognised by the tidy burrow entrances, marked with piles of used bedding and nearby latrine pits where they leave their droppings.
Badgers have an amazing reproductive technique called delayed implantation whereby the female badger, or sow, can mate at any time through the year but still keep her birth time to the spring. This means that badgers are able to give birth at the most suitable time of year to ensure the best chance of survival for their offspring.
Badgers don’t technically hibernate, however they do put on a lot of weight in the autumn to keep them with good reserves of fat when food is scarcer in the winter months. They also sleep deeper and longer and in very cold weather can stay underground for days at a time.
How the Trust looks after Tewin Orchard
Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust works hard to protect Tewin Orchard Nature Reserve. The majority of habitat management and tree pruning
takes place over the autumn and winter after the fruit has been harvested. The orchard and meadow are mown in late summer to ensure a healthy habitat for wildlife.
Reports from the warden
Mike Clark is our volunteer reserve warden for Tewin Orchard Nature Reserve. He has kindly been providing us with updates.
Since the nature reserve was closed and we went into hand washing and isolation, kind friends in the village insisted on delivering to the gate where we do an exchange of cash and their good will with the food. They have been absolutely marvellous. At home all the time, lucky to have a garden, it is like Dig for Victory as Anna has propagated vast trays of vegetables that we are now planting out - mostly winter vegetables - after our little digger has turned over the ground all over the place in the back garden.
But this should be a report on the badgers! I have twice stayed on for a while after their nightly feed has been left in front of the hide windows. I have only seen the adult badgers and foxes so far, including our oldest resident badger who lives nearby, up in the orchard for easy access at mealtimes. Meanwhile the colony occupants come up from the various setts in the wood and field below. The hide is locked and all gates padlocked, so I sit to one side of the hide and as I am outdoors with them, easily detected. I do not want to disturb them too much but I will certainly try a long watch in May to see if cubs were raised again this spring.
It is amazing that we had the wettest February ever recorded, after a very wet winter, and now look as if we are going to have had the driest April ever recorded. To help maintain natural food for the badgers we have a number of compost areas where we take the poultry bedding after cleaning days and these are a very welcome source of worms. There are signs of busy diggings each morning and some of the straw appeals also as bedding. There are trails left back down the hill towards the setts, but their enthusiasm seems to wane before they get to the tunnels!
The orchard trees have had the best blossom for years, first with the pears and now the apples. Honey bees from the orchard apiary are busy pollinating Jester, for example, as I made a point of pausing by the flowers this afternoon. I found in fact that there were numerous bees to be seen buzzing onto the attractive pink and white petals. Fingers crossed there will not be hail storms that knock off the young fruitlets.
Anna came up to me this week and said she had just heard the cuckoo as I said back that I had just seen the first cuckoo-flower in bloom! We have always had them in the area and sometimes both bird and flower are to be seen regularly for a while here. Wild garlic is in full flower and makes the badger sett in the wood smell like a French restaurant.
There is a lot of excavation of the tunnels by the badgers, including a chalk one where cubs were born in both the past two years. During this time their parents excavated a number of flints that look surprisingly like animals! We consider our badgers to be super little archaeologists.
We do look forward to having visitors enjoying watching the wildlife again before too long. May all of you keep safe and well.
The wild garlic and bluebells made a specially good display of flowers in Hopkyns' Wood, but they have quickly faded now. Cowslips are in the bottom field and it will be interesting to see if we have many orchids this dry summer. Fruit blossom was spectacular, especially the pears, and although fruit has set well, they may fall if the already stressed trees do not get a good soaking soon.
I am concerned at the lack of badger cub sightings during my evening feed visits when I thought I might chance on them. There are three fox cubs turning up for food and three fox adults - and I have disturbed as many as twelve adult badgers one evening. Two of the fox cubs are so small they look like little toys scampering about between the badgers as if they only had little sticks for legs. The drought is awful, but the compost is being thoroughly dug through for worms in all parts where we have it kept, even behind the wood frames where the badgers push in regardless. The chicken shed pond has dried up and two-thirds flora now and the big pond, so full after the February rain, is very shallow now.
We have ravens daily in the garden nesting nearby and they have twice chased a buzzard off. The buzzards are now feeding young and there are second broods for robins already. Jenny wren has her nest by the greenhouse and ignores Anna sorting out dahlias. Nuthatch and blue tits being fed by the feeders. Has been perfect weather for coal, great and blue tits.
The Audrey Randall hide in Tewin Orchard is run with the kind support of Herts & Middlesex Badger Group.