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Friday, 15 February, 2002, 20:24 GMT
Badger tears up Kew's lawns
A badger
It is against the law to harm or kill a badger
Gardeners say they are powerless to stop a rogue badger ripping up a pristine croquet lawn at a West Sussex stately home.

The burrowing badger has ruined the lawns at Kew's country garden at Wakehurst Place, near Ardingly, which has undergone recent restoration by landscapers.

The work led to an increase in worms - perfect winter food for badgers.

There is nothing the gardners can do to stop the badger burrowing for its food as it is protected in law.

'Superficial damage'

A sign has been put up by the lawns at the Elizabethan mansion explaining to visitors the damage has been caused by a badger.

Kew has encouraged badgers to populate the 300-acre estate as part of the garden's key UK conservation scheme.

Until recently the setts were in the woodland areas but now at least one badger has taken up residence near the mansion.

"The animals have complete legal protection in this situation," said a Wakehurst Place spokesman.

"Work to improve the appearance of these fine lawns has increased the number of worms.

"This has provided a vital source of winter food for our newly resident badger."

He said fencing the lawn would be impractical and restrictive for visitors.

"We must therefore tolerate this superficial damage until the spring when we hope the ground will have dried out, and the worms are too deep for the badger to detect them."

Garden managers hope that by then teams can move in to carry out restoration work.

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