Country: Nature Notes

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ALREADY, EARLIER than ever, spears of wild garlic are shooting up in the woods on the escarpment. At the moment they are only three or four inches high, but the plants will soon create a dense carpet nearly a foot deep, and in April they will throw out a mass of star-shaped white flowers.

I have often wondered what wild creatures make of this sudden change in their environment.

Badgers, in particular, must find it rather bewildering. One week they are going about their nocturnal business over a bare, grey-brown woodland floor. The next, they are pushing through head-high, dark-green vegetation.

Colour is certainly less important to them than smell, for they operate mostly in the dark, and see largely in black and white. But as their sense of smell is reckoned to be at least 500 times as acute as that of a human being, what on earth do they make of wild garlic, which has an overpowering scent? So strong is the tang that it penetrates even into the eggs of chickens which peck out bulbs, and farmers' wives used to say that a rabbit that had run through garlic could go into the pot without salt or pepper, as it came into the kitchen fully seasoned.