Crime scene

Something has been mangling my garden. (This sentence reminds me about trying to help a friend prepare for an advanced class at the Institut Français by coming up with outlandish phrases illustrating different ways of expressing damage: my contribution was ‘the wreckage that the hurricane left in my garden’.)


Whatever it is, it’s been digging for victory, and only in this bed. I have several potential candidates, given that hurricanes tend not to dig.

1. Corvids. I have a lot of problems with crows, jackdaws, etc digging up chafer grubs at this time of year, and this lawn was always a favourite place before we created the bed. However, these holes are just too big, unless they are using spades. I know corvids are bright, but I doubt they’ve been able to get into the ty bach, remove the spades, use the spades, clean the spades, replace the spades and then close the door again.

2. Badgers. My garden is surrounded by stone walls, high stone walls, and the gates are closed. Though I did pass a badger trolling down the hill one evening as I was on my way up, I think it was making for the pub rather than contemplating scaling the walls. For one thing, it didn’t have a ladder.

3. Foxes. It does look a bit like fox damage – I lived with that when I was in my London phase – but there are no other signs: no strong smells, poo, take-away cartons or dismembered pigeons. And, following my London experience, I no longer use fish, blood and bone as that is as attractive to the average fox as a dodgy meat pie is to a footie supporter at half time.

4. Rabbits. No shit. Seriously – rabbits poo everywhere. There are no signs of anything other than these huge holes. No footprints, even when we had snow. And I don’t believe in ‘ghost rabbits’ previously suggested as solution to disappearing mangetout. I know what helps itself to tender veg, and it has two legs and not four.

It’s not just in the exposed areas of the bed either, as in some cases plants, like this anthemis, have been shoved out of the way.


So what the hell is it? It’s not happening in daylight, as far as I can tell, and there are no signs of damage anywhere else. Next door’s fox terrier was put down last year. P no longer has a dog, either, and nor has he been overtaken by a desire to become the Phantom Digger of Dyffryn, or he says he hasn’t. Hobbits? I think their holes would be bigger, rounder and involve large film crews which the neighbours would be bound to notice.

And it’s not me. OK, I am responsible for one of the huge holes in this bed where I ripped up my Angelica gigas, but not the rest. Honestly. Any more suggestions?


36 Comments Add yours

  1. wellywoman says:

    Wow! I can only really add cats to the list. They are quite big for cats and generally you’d know they’d ‘been’ there but sometimes they dig, especially if the soil is quite loose just for the sake of it. I have seen plants shoved out of the way by cats in my own garden. Other than that it’s a mystery. Maybe you could set up a camera trap. I’d be so intrigued I think I’d have to set up a hide and wait for it. Well, may be not, it is rather cold at the moment. 😉

    1. kate says:

      I do have a cat shit problem, but their holes are much smaller (and for some delightful reason, generally confined to the veg patch – I presume because the soil is a nice, soft, bottom-friendly tilth). I’m wondering if I can somehow watch from the house – as you say, it is rather cold….

      (A friend of mine had a problem with his Mac turning itself on in the middle of the night. Drove him mad. Poltergeists? Very discreet burglars? Set up web cam – his cat, sleeping on the keyboard.)

      1. wellywoman says:

        This did make me chuckle. Don’t get me started on cats. A neighbour’s cat has … lets say ‘digestive issues’ and yesterday I spent the morning having to delicately remove vinca and fern foliage that it has been using as a toilet. it wasn’t pleasant. Is there somewhere in the house you could position yourself with a ready supply of biscuits and tea and yet still be able to keep watch?

        1. kate says:

          Eeeeeerrrghhhh on the cat front; at least NDC – Next Door’s Cat – doesn’t suffer from upsets and confines herself to soil, from where the evidence is easily picked up on a trowel and hurled over the wall into the wildy bit. If I returned it to source, as it were, I’d have to get it over the lane and I’m not sure enough of my aim.

          (I tried keeping watch last night but just dropped off!)

  2. Cathy says:

    Do the holes go anywhere, Kate, ie are there tunnels? I presume not, otherwise I would suggest rats – they seem to like a lot of space for the tunnels (must be a bit claustrophobic). I hope you find the culprit/s and that it doesn’t forever remain A Mystery. Oh, and there was no need to subtly show off about your clean spades….. (or I am I the only one who never cleans their spade after use?) 🙂

    1. kate says:

      No, they’re just deep holes (I’ve had smaller tunnels before – voles). RATS! I do have rats – who doesn’t? – but the size they’d need to be doesn’t bear thinking about. I’m going to try sprinkling some sand around I think, see if I can get any clear footprints.

      You mean the dry stuff doesn’t just fall off your spades? Hee hee hee

      1. Cathy says:

        Ah – it wasn’t clear how big the holes were from the pictures. No chance of a new giant rat species, then?! 🙂 I await developments!

        1. kate says:

          I should have used a ruler – deepest hole is well over a foot in depth. Eeek!!!

  3. Christina says:

    A mystery that definitely needs solving, otherwise you’re going to have problems later in the year. I’d say it looks like badger or foxes, could the badgers have got in under the gate? I hope you find the culprit and do let us know.

    1. kate says:

      I know, it’s worrying. Karen thinks badgers might have managed to get over the lower wall between me and the chapel graveyard – it’s the only way I can think of as the gates are down to the ground, and solid. I’m going to take a trip round to the other side and see what can be seen…

  4. Pauline says:

    Yes, something is definitely going on, I think all the usual suspects have been mentioned, can’t really suggest anything else unfortunately. Really hope you get it all sorted before your veggies get growing.

    1. kate says:

      I’ve spread a load of fine ash from the woodburner around the site now, and am hoping for footprints. It is a complete mystery… This bed looked lovely last year; now it resembles a bomb site. Grrr.

  5. Dobby says:

    I can believe that you went and checked that the Corvids hadn’t used the spades!
    I’d go with badgers, but if the ground is soft, would have thought you’d have seen footprints. Sand is a very good idea as it a stake out. Do you need biscuits or Bara Brith to keep you going?

    1. kate says:

      There’s no footprints at all, and it doesn’t look like a friend’s garden up the hill, which has had a terrible badger snorgling (but then she does have a huge sett on her land). Gin. I need gin.

      1. Dobby says:

        Perhaps the dragons are digging holes for you to plant leeks. Well, they are Welsh!!
        If you can catch and train it, you will never have to worry about having matches to light the wood burner again. Can you house train dragons?

        1. kate says:

          OK, so that’s you, me and Karen for the men in the white coats…

          I don’t envisage dragons as being particularly trainable, myself. But I could be wrong – on the other hand, I don’t fancy charred curtains while trying. THere was a local house fire yesterday – maybe they’d been reading your suggestion. Only saying…

  6. Helen Johnstone says:

    Badger – looks like the damage in my garden and they can climb alot. The one that visits my garden didnt like that I had blocked its route and climbed down from next door’s garden onto our cycle shed and then on to the patio – scared me loads. He then climbed up a 5ft wall to get up the garden. If it is badger dont bother with tulips as they adore them

    1. kate says:

      Oh my lord on your mountaineering badger!

      Badger is the favourite at present, but it’s not like definite badger damage I’ve seen round here – the holes are so defined. They might just be getting through between me and the Capel; it’s the only place I can think of. Went looking last night with a torch but got spooked! (Big girl’s blouse or what…)

  7. Anna says:

    A case for Sherlock Bones if ever there was one. It looks as if Helen may have hit the suspect on the head. No suggestions from me but I’m glad that I read your post Kate. My new world for the day is corvid which I had to look up and will now use when the next suitable opportunity arises 🙂

    1. kate says:

      Go Corvid!

      Karen (Artist’s Garden) has suggested dragons, as we are in Wales. Am going with that at present, or at least until I find footprints. Interestingly, one of the logs I was moving yesterday was strangely charred….

  8. Beyond here there be dragons”
    I think you have a small welsh dragon (draig) … have you checked for singed areas? They are not very good with their fire breath when they are still small. Sometimes you can spot them when they fly in front of a full moon, but otherwise they are very quiet and tip-toe around the place

    1. kate says:

      I’m going with this. It visited again last night, but there was rain and it washed away any foot/claw prints. It seems to particularly like the achillea, or what is underneath it – who knows what dragons eat? I thought it was maidens, but I very much doubt there’s one buried under my new bed. Hmm.

      Not so much a draig goch as a draig bloody annoying…

  9. VP says:

    I immediately thought badger, then pondered over squirrel especially if the areas in question have quite a few bulbs. But then I was viewing the problem with English eyes, completely forgetting there are special Welsh problems to consider. A small Welsh dragon it is.

    1. kate says:

      No bulbs there, just achillea. And one artichoke, which is still standing, so dragons evidently don;t like artichoke. Who knew?

      (Karen is now worried that the men in white coats are coming for her. And the rest of us, I think. Had better set dragon trap immediately to prove sanity.)

    1. kate says:

      Ooooo no…. lived with that twice…. Phew, just went and double-checked. It’s definitely digging, because stuff is being kicked out. I think we’ll fill everything in, remulch the bed with fresh chippings, and lay some really nasty rosa rugosa prunings over the favourite patch…

  10. jan rushby says:

    Could it be squirrels? They have been digging up my crocuses and leaving fairly large craters?

    1. kate says:

      Hmm, I did have squirrels but haven’t seen any for a while. I wonder? I also used to have a lot of bats, and they’ve just returned, but I really can’t blame them…

      Squirrels much more likely than dragons, when you come down to it, and could explain why only the bed is touched and not the lawns – badgers wouldn’t have any problems uprooting matted lawn, as they have up at my friend’s place, but squirrels might.

  11. croftgarden says:

    Can’t manage a witty repost on this one or even a sensible suggestion except a gamekeeper with a live trap and a mars bar!

    1. kate says:

      I have to ask – Mars Bar?

      (Unfortunately I think that would trap me first…)

      1. croftgarden says:

        Allegedly it is the perfect bait and used here when the fish food or very smelly fish fails. However you might not get the hole digging fiend in the trap.
        Apologies for the typos.

        1. kate says:

          Fish is an option…

  12. OK, so firstly surely Karen knows that the dragons are currently hibernating, so definitely not the dragons. The corvids (fabulous word) would never tidy up after themselves, so it is this, not the idea of them using spades, that clears them. Probably badgers, but since that is a boring – and frustratingly hard to counter – explanation, I propose R.O.U.S.s. Rodents of Unusual Size. As per “The Princess Bride”. Please tell me you are familiar… Am now feeling foolish… Though not as foolish as if I had suggested dragons…

    1. kate says:

      OK, on dragons. But love the Rodents of Unusual Size. Am going with it, until other evidence presents itself!

    1. kate says:


      Would prefer dragons!

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