The idea of ‘reds’ on Tresco—the second largest island in the archipelago—was first put to me by the late Humfrey Wakefield, a gifted potter, who lived on the island of St Mary’s. He was more than gifted and I still enjoy the odd cup of tea from one of his creations. Wakefield was adamant that Tresco was the place for red squirrels. Sometimes, as I spoke with him, flagons of a clear liquid would be brought to him from visiting French trawlermen, and vaguely similar flagons would be exchanged and travel in the opposite direction. What was the liquid-like? I would describe it as ‘quite interesting’ and it did me no lasting damage. Rumour had it that Wakefield had his own private homemade still at the bottom of his garden.
Anyway, he was also a good naturalist. |He was the man who discovered roseate terns nesting on Scilly for the first time and who described Tresco as being ‘perfect’ for a red-squirrel introduction: plenty of trees, wild food, and no grey squirrels to pass on the lethal squirrel pox—lethal to red squirrels, that is.
So Tresco, the ‘ideal’ location, was the place to start. Yes, the owner (the Duchy of Cornwall) was keen, as was the head of the Duchy (The Prince of Wales, or The Duke of Cornwall). In fact, it’s true to say that The Prince has been hooked on red squirrels, rather like Lulu and me, for some considerable time (He is the patron of the Red Squirrel Survival Trust). A few years ago, we were invited up to Birkhall in Aberdeenshire to see the ‘habituated’ squirrels (COUNTRY LIFE, November 14, 2018) inviting themselves into his house for a snack—amazing.
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