Black hillocks have replaced the snow drifts. All across the meadows erratic lines of molehills are appearing. Once you’ve started noticing them, they’re everywhere – on grass verges, tidy lawns, playing fields and even a stone’s throw from the beach.
It is rare to see a mole in action as they are usually nocturnal. However, as a small child I remember seeing one popping up in our garden. My father had been brought up on a farm and saw moles as pests. I’m sorry to say he dispatched the little bleary mole before I had time to wonder at this blind digger with its pink spadey hands. To console me, my father said he would make me a purse from the mole’s skin. For weeks the velvety skin was pinned out on the coalbunker to dry. I would inspect it sadly as it dried to a stiff crispy shadow. It never was made into anything.
John Clare wrote about the mole ‘I see little mouldywarps hang sweeing in the wind/on the only aged willow that in all the field remains’ This desolate image highlights the contrast between the much-love mole of Wind in the Willows and the farmers’ desire to eradicate this little creature perceived as a destroyer of crops.
I have a book on British Mammals dating from the beginning of the Twentieth Century. It contains this description of the mole, ‘It has a plump, rounded body, with small eyes and ears embedded in silky fur, and short legs, armed on the front pair with five remarkable claws. It is thus splendidly equipped for tunneling and digging.’
Moles become very thirsty while digging and are said to dig little well shafts. Its tunneling can help to create drainage in meadows Soon after the beginning of the year the mole creates its nesting earth, usually under a bush or shrub. This ‘earth’ is larger than the ordinary hillocks. The actual nest is about a foot below ground and is lined with dead grass and leaves. Five to seven young are usually produced. I once saw some – they are pale brown or grey with pink-tipped snouts.
Moles have been around for a very long time as fossils have been discovered of their remains.