Beautiful as the Tresco Abbey Gardens undeniably are, I have to confess that I am not greatly into plants. My problem is that I can’t distinguish one from another beyond the broad distinctions of tree and shrub and flower. Basically, I can’t tell my knobweed from my nipplewort, no matter how hard I try to learn all the fancy Latin names. So, while I greatly enjoyed seeing the famous gardens in the all together, as it were, I found that my attention did not focus on one particular, individual plant, even though I knew that many were unique to this remote and temperate corner of the British Isles.
So, it was with interest that I spotted a movement in the high branches of one of the trees––don’t ask me to name what kind––that was clearly fauna in origin, rather than flora. The longer I focussed on the branches, I realised that the movement was a squirrel and, more than that, a red squirrel. It was a thrilling ‘spot’. With the introduction of the eastern grey squirrel from North America in the 1870s, red squirrel numbers in the UK have declined dramatically. I could count the number of times I had seen a red squirrel on the fingers of one hand.
I watched fascinated; transfixed by the slightest glimpse of the rare mammal. This was better than plants. You know where you are with animals. So excited was I, that I felt an un-British need to be companionable; a comradely desire to share my experience with someone.
“There’s a red squirrel up there,” I said, pointing out the scarcely-discernible auburn speck to a random passing stranger.
“There’s lots of them,” replied the stranger, impassively. “There’s one on the path right behind you.”
And so there was.
A little, perky, tufty-eared, bushy-tailed cliché of cuteness. If I had had the foresight to be in possession of a peanut, it looked as though it was so tame that it would have taken it straight out of my hand (nb. E. C. Glendenny does not advocate the feeding of wild animals, and squirrels in particular. From bitter experience of one lacerated forearm occasioned in her own back garden, she can testify that squirrels have very, very sharp claws).
The relative ubiquity of red squirrels at Tresco Abbey Gardens in no way lessened their appeal. It was lovely to find an environment where the little creatures were still thriving; where they could behave as free and as unconcerned as their bigger grey cousins do in the rest of the UK.
© E. C. Glendenny
E. C. Glendenny loves getting back to nature.
Check out a selection of E. C. Glendenny’s travel writing, now published in the volume Easy Come, Easy Go, available on Amazon.