A new podcast! The intro text I wrote says it all:
“Allan Bantick OBE has had a remarkable career in conservation. Roles in the past have included Chair of the Scottish Wildlife Trust, Chair of the Scottish Beaver Trial, Vice Chairman of Scottish Badgers, Founder Member of the National Species Reintroduction Forum, Member of the Scottish Biodiversity Committee and Trustee of The Wildlife Trusts. In February this year he stepped down as Chair of the Scottish Wildcat Action Steering Group, but remains a Trustee of Scottish Badgers and sits on the Scottish Environment Link Wildlife Forum and Wildlife Crime Sub Group.
I went to visit Allan in March and recorded the following interview in the Strathspey Badger Hide, which looks one way onto a huge hillock that’s been assiduously mined by badgers for decades and the other towards the River Spey and the mountains and pine forests that make this part of the world such a wonderful place to visit.”
I spent much of the day with Allan Bantick OBE. You honestly couldn’t hope to meet a more thoroughly decent, highly entertaining, self-effacing man. Well, you could hope too, but I wouldn’t rate your chances too high…
We recorded an interview in the comfort of the Strathspey Badger Hide, just outside the village of Boat of Garten in the Cairngorms National Park where Allan lives.
The hide, which has solar panels mounted on the roof and the cosy feel of a well-loved garden shed, is built on the banks of the River Spey. It looks out onto a hillock which has been assiduously mined by badgers for decades. It’s a fabulous spot, and to quote from the Boat of Garten Wildlife Group website, the hide “is an independent project managed under the umbrella of the Boat of Garten Community Company Wildlife Group. It was set up in 1996 to provide people of all ages with the chance to watch wild badgers at close quarters. The hide was built with the help of funds from Scottish Natural Heritage. We ask our guests for a small contribution [Adults £10, accompanied children under 17 are free ]. The money raised is used to fund all of the projects undertaken by the Boat of Garten Wildlife Group. In addition to maintaining the Badger Hide and its associated nest boxes your kind contributions help us manage Milton Loch and its Bird Hide, equip and run trail camera surveys in the Boat of Garten vicinity, maintain feeding stations for red squirrels and small birds in Deshar Woods, run a specialist nest box programme for crested tits and support the local Ranger. “
£10 for all of that seems like quite a bargain to me!
The point of all this though is that as we chatted Allan asked if I’d be interested in joining a small group back at the hide in the late afternoon/early evening. That is, he said with a smile, if you’d like to see some badgers – oh, and perhaps a Pine Marten too…
Obviously – or there’d be no point at all in this post – I said yes, and found myself back in the hide around 18:30. The sky was still light as Allan drizzled the ground immediately outside the hide with peanuts, and he was barely back in through the door before stripey snouts started poking from several large holes no more than ten yards away.
Within twenty minutes we were watching up to six badgers unconcernedly snuffling just below us. Attuned to Allan’s voice rather than tame in any way, this was top-level wild animal watching, and I’d recommend it to anyone visiting the area. When you realise that the photos here were taken with a phone, you get an idea just how indifferent – and how close – to us these beautiful animals were.
And how nice to see badgers and not have to worry about their safety. I’m not going to get into the politics of the badger cull playing out on the other side of the Scottish border… only to say that I hate it in every way and have made a number of podcasts about it with expert campaigners and ecologists. Thankfully there is no bovine TB in Scotland (there are proper restrictions on cattle movements here) and these badgers are safe from the gunmen roaming parts of England killing a protected species on behalf of the dairy industry…
Anyway, we stayed in the hide for about ninety minutes before we had to leave. We didn’t see a Pine Marten this time (the camera trap on the trees opposite us had recorded marten activity every night this week), but – you know – you have to leave something for next time.
And the podcast with Allan I recorded earlier in the day? In the editing queue. As soon as it’s uploaded to Lush Player I’ll post about it here.
I’m heading up to Scotland tomorrow to record at the Wild Animal Welfare Committee (WAWC) Conference. There’s a fantastic list of speakers and pre-conference promotion has advised delegates that I’ll be there. mic in hand, doing my best imitation of an investigative reporter. It should be a very interesting day.
Rather than go all the way up to Scotland and turn right back around again, I’ve arranged to also interview Allan Bantick OBE.