In the opening pages of The Wind in the Willows, the Mole ‘scraped and scratched and scrabbled and scrooged’ his way to the surface. This winter there’s been a lot of scrabbling and scrooging around the lakes at Nostell Priory. Molehills have been popping up on verges, path edges and even under park benches, many of them just the size of a pudding basin but there are several that are the diameter of a dustbin lid, containing two bucketfuls or more of soil.

We’ve seen fieldfares using molehills as vantage points on the open parkland. Around the lakes, the resident robins often perch on them; they’ll give one that has been freshly excavated a close examination, picking out any food items (presumably invertebrates) that might have been brought to the surface.

Useful as they might be to some of the local birds, the mounds will present an obstacle when mowing starts again in the spring, so now is the time to rake them out. The freshly turned soil can serve as a mulch, bringing minerals back to the surface.

Sprouting bulbs uprooted in a molehill.

For regular-sized molehills a little footwork is all that is needed but for the mole-mountains there’s a garden power tool that can help. Leaf blowers can be eight times faster than traditional raking and sweeping and this morning one of the gardeners is using a powerful leaf blower to spread the earth of a mound over a lakeside verge. Noisy but effective!

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