From the Pacific Coast in March, we turned our attention in May to Penrith.

Just outside the town is the impressive stone circle called Long Meg and Her Daughters, some 3000 years old. By contrast overlooking the River Eden is the equally fascinating series of caves carved out of the bright red sandstone by Colonel Lacy in the 18th century to store wine.

Most exciting was coming across badger activity in the woods nearby.

Seeing a badger is a rare and unexpected treat. Too often, like hedgehogs, they are seen dead at the roadside but they are clearly thriving in Cumbria.

The picture shows an active sett with fresh spoil heaps and discarded bedding down inside. This is ideal badger territory with sloping banks of soft well drained soil easy to dig, plenty to eat (earthworms being the main choice) and a river close by. Judging by our difficulties finding our way the public footpath didn’t seem heavily used.

Successful setts can be active for generations, refurbished and enlarged over the years having lengthy tunnels and many entrances. The sleeping and nesting chambers lie at the end of passages and can be up to 3 feet wide and 2 feet tall. Sometimes foxes take over setts and it’s not always amicable: foxes and badgers have been known to eat each other’s young.

If seeing a badger is uncommon spotting the signs is easier. Roll hairs caught on thorn or wire between your fingers and if they feel they have corners, rather than smooth, they are likely to be badger hair.

Look out for runs, but these can be used by many animals…foxes, rabbits as well as badgers but there is something delightful about these pathways and imagining the nighttime activity along these well worn routes. If you do the ‘hair shape’ test on any caught tufts you will know if a badger has been using the run.

Beside the river was more evidence…the prints of paws in a muddy patch. You can clearly see the large main pad as well as the five toes and claws.

The badger is a heavy animal so can leave a very clear footprint.

Another rather less appealing giveaway are badger latrines, which are unmistakable. They dig a small uncovered pit which they use frequently so there is a pile of dung, often not far from setts or beside a badger pathway.

Even if we seldom see them at least we can get a good idea of where they’ve been and where they’re going.