Red squirrels

Posted: Tuesday 10 April 2012
by Richard Jones

[...] it has become a tradition of this blog that I bemoan the inadequacies of holiday cottage gardens. Well, we've outdone ourselves this time.

Concrete courtyard

It has become a tradition in this house that we head off to the Isle of Wight for a week around Easter time. And it has become a tradition of this blog that I bemoan the inadequacies of holiday cottage gardens. Well, we've outdone ourselves this time.

It was a late booking, offered up by an agency after they told us all our first choices were already gone. A nicely modernised fisherman's cottage in Yarmouth, four bedrooms, two bathrooms, but its 'outside' space is a courtyard, rather than a garden. In fact, the courtyard is more like an alleyway. And in the rain it becomes a gutter. I'm going to be hard pressed to find even a slug here.

Elsewhere in Wight, though, wildlife abounds. The local newspaper has an article about large tortoiseshells; several have been spotted around the island in the last few years and a breeding colony may have been established here. As we tour the island we see kestrels and buzzards floating past, and we take in the many wildlife-related road signs urging us to drive carefully because of ducks, badgers and (my favourite) red squirrels.

The squirrel sign is in the village of Shalfleet, where the A3054 narrows to a single-file contraflow controlled by traffic lights. The first time we waited for green here, we half scoffed at it; red squirrels, yeah right, as if we're likely to see one of them! Then, suddenly, someone is screeching excitedly: "Squirrel! Squirrel! There's a squirrel!" Sure enough, Nutkin is sitting virtually under the sign, on the mown verge outside the New Inn, nonchalantly chewing a seed. Typically, the lights change and we have to move off before anyone can get a camera out.

So much more delicate and refined, than the ruffian interloper greys we see in London, I'm willing to bet no gardener in the Isle of Wight ever writes in to the local paper complaining about squirrel damage.

Needless to say, I am not expecting to see a red squirrel in our gutter courtyard in Yarmouth, but I'm hoping for the best at Osborne House later in the week.

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kaycurtis 15/04/2012 at 04:16

Dear Richard Jones, wouldn't we all love the safety of this dear little creature our own native squirrel but nothing is being done about the grey perril wich causes so much damage to everything from trees to bulbs and bird feeders, they ensconce themselves in our roofs and not to mention that they are the reason for the demise of our squirrel nutkin.

dambuster 16/04/2012 at 14:17

Hi kaycurtis, I live in Weardale in the north pennines and the red squirrel population is growing due to two reasons, firstly landowners are shooting the greys and secondly the reds are becoming immune to the virus carried by the greys.