Don't mess with the moles when the Queen comes

Click to follow

Almost certainly, it will be a bumper year for republicanism. The Government may try to bribe us into caring about the Windsor family by granting a long weekend to mark the jubilee in June, but most people will anyway be working reduced hours at that time in order to celebrate the considerably more interesting World Cup. Meanwhile Her Majesty will be touring the country, clogging up the traffic as she waves drearily to her diminishing band of supporters.

Almost certainly, it will be a bumper year for republicanism. The Government may try to bribe us into caring about the Windsor family by granting a long weekend to mark the jubilee in June, but most people will anyway be working reduced hours at that time in order to celebrate the considerably more interesting World Cup. Meanwhile Her Majesty will be touring the country, clogging up the traffic as she waves drearily to her diminishing band of supporters.

Desperately trying to stir up interest, the press office at Buckingham Palace has launched a spin offensive. When, a few years ago, the doyen of court correspondents, Talbot Church ("The Man the Royals Trust"), compiled a masterly royal wedding tie-in 101 Things You Didn't Know About the Royal Lovebirds, he was widely attacked for trivialising a serious subject. Now the palace is at the same game, releasing 50 Golden Facts about Her Majesty the Queen, including the fascinating revelation that "the Queen has owned more than 30 corgis during her reign".

Funnily enough, four of these silly little dogs are indirectly responsible for the latest royal gaffe. Over the past few months, Prince Edward – the only Windsor who appears to be vaguely normal – has been vilified for something his TV company did. Then there was the Harry the Pothead crisis, out of which Prince Charles emerged as a sanctimonious prig prepared to shop his son to the press in order to gain a few favourable headlines for himself.

Now the Queen's obsession with her corgis – called Pharos, Swift, Emma and Linnet, as you'll know from 50 Golden Facts – has revealed yet another area where her family is hopelessly out of touch.

Her Majesty has just granted a royal warrant to Victor Williamson, a molecatcher from King's Lynn, in recognition for his murderous work on the 20,000 acres of the Sandringham estate. According to press reports, Mr Williamson's favoured mode of killing moles is by laying down poisoned worms. Only when Pharos and the gang are in residence is he forbidden to leave bait. Apparently, the dogs might pick up the poison, dead worms being the only prey that corgis are able to catch.

Yet again, Mrs Windsor is setting an appalling example. As anyone who lives in the country will know, putting poison into the food chain has a disastrous effect on owls and other birds of prey. It is a particularly irresponsible act in north Norfolk, which is one of the few areas where barn owls can still be seen.

I would concede that Mr Williamson has a problem. "The little devils are very busy," he says, and, as a veteran of a 20-year campaign against moles, I would have to agree. My colony likes to play beneath the croquet lawn, renowned as one of the smoothest greens in Suffolk, and have laughed at my various attempts to discourage them.

I have spent many hours discussing the mole problem. A farmer nearby blasts at any movement in the ground with a shotgun. My aunt favours a gentler approaching, getting down on her knees beside a molehill and praying for deliverance. Others swear by a vibrator-like object but, since my moles continue digging as I mow the lawn above their heads, I have concluded that they actually enjoy a bit of vibration.

There is a solution – a neighbour has a legendary reputation as a terminator – but recently, in a rather beautiful and New Age way, I have come to love my enemy. They dig; I play croquet, now and then gently raking over their latest efforts. Their population has remained stable down the years.

At Sandringham, in contrast, they are on the increase, as the royal mole- catcher mournfully concedes. The Queen may be decimating the barn owl population in her area, but the moles will have the last laugh. They always do.

terblacker@aol.com

Comments