Springtime is a tenuous thing. Hard to judge, if you’re a dormouse. Today there are blue skies and misty lanes; this time last year, we were being freeze-dried by bitter snow. To sleep or to wake? My guess is that some of our dormice are awake.
Hazel dormice have a message about the British countryside: about woods and hedgerows, flowers and fruits. Do we want to hear what these exquisite little creatures are telling us?
Perhaps not. For all their gold-plated national and international legal protection, dormice continue to slide towards extinction in Britain. We’ve pulled the rug away by wrecking the hedgerows that support them, and isolating and ruining woodland. Flaying, over-cutting and removing hedgerows where dormice are present is dangerously close to a criminal offence – and there is no legal defence for killing a dormouse of ‘incidental result of a lawful operation’. To my local district council and everyone else who manages Surrey’s surviving hedges: please note.
But there is a ray of hope.
Dormice can survive us. My village proves it. We thought we were preserving our historic landscape by turning our wooded lanes into a conservation area, but we accidentally saved our dormice too. This road is home to dormice – and people.
Thick, wide hedgerows, trees with branches that provide bridges over roads, ancient woodland with a jumbled understorey of hazel and bramble – they’re all things that dormice need.
I’ll be looking for them again in the spring. For nests like this, bound with hazel leaves and honeysuckle.
And maybe – just maybe – some of these.
Let’s keep hold of the hope. Surrey must always remain good enough for dormice.
All dormice in this post handled under licence. It is against the law to disturb, handle or harm dormice without a licence in the UK.