Can you dig it? The team who tackled my mole issue
- Credit: Steve Adams
Walking in Norfolk with her dog Buddy, former teacher Louise Chapman noticed little mounds of earth all over the place and got to thinking about something most of us ignore... mole hills.
While we tend to take little notice of them in public spaces our attitude can change when one pops up in the middle of a much-loved and cared for lawn... following by others which snake across the grass and into the flower beds and vegetable gardens.
Louise, a Norwich mother in her 40s, did some mole investigating and more she found out about these fascinating, and often annoying little mammals, the more she wanted to know.
It resulted in Louise going to back to college to 'read moles,' do more digging about the life and times of the dynamic digger, and becoming Norfolk's very own Lady Mole Catcher.
Not only that. She has been so successful in such a short time that she now has a colleague, Alyona Hogg, the Country Mole Catcher.
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They are 21st-century pioneers in the ancient craft of mole catching. Gone is the image of the grisly old boy who has swapped his bike for a grubby van and opens a tobacco tin full of mole tails to prove he knows what he's doing.
At the last count there were four female mole catchers in the country... and two of them are now working in Norfolk.
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You could say it's a cat and mouse game between Louise and Alyona and the moles but nine times out of ten there is only one winner, and it's the end of the road for the clever little diggers and earth movers. They have met their match.
'The more I discovered about moles, the more I wanted to know. They really are fascinating creatures and they need to be treated with the utmost respect. Yes, we kill them but we do it in the most humane way possible,' said Louise. 'I hate to think of them suffering.'
And if they are doing no harm in open spaces, then leave them alone to go about their business.
Louise, Norwich born and bred, has been a teacher at various schools in the city and county, also done several other jobs, including landscaping and designing gardens.
'I do love being out in the open air. And where better than Norfolk? I enjoy gardening but there are plenty of gardeners about. Not so many mole catchers,' said Louise.
After deciding to enter the world of mole-catching she enrolled on a course at Easton College, to learn all about moles and spent many hours discovering all she could them and became the first woman to run the British Traditional Molecatchers Register (BTMR), an organisation devoted to this ancient art.
As word of the Lady Mole Catcher spread and Louise got busier and busier she took on a colleague, Alyona Hogg, who originally comes from Russia.
Did she ever think she would end up living and working in Norfolk – catching moles?
'Never. Ever,' she laughed. 'I love my job and I really enjoy visiting so many lovely English gardens. People in Russia love English gardens.
'We have moles in Russia but they are much bigger. We call them mole-rats. I prefer the English moles,' said Alyona.
The number of moles on the move – it is estimated, not sure how, that there are about 40 million of them – has increased following the ban on using strychnine to poison them almost ten years ago.
Since then the call for traditional mole catchers has grown but how about the 'modern' methods of moving the moles on such as putting garlic, moth balls, holly leaves, and the rest down the holes or plastic flags and other objects in the ground?
'They don't work. Moles are clever. They just dig around them. You have to outwit them. We use the best method of control because it is fast and efficient,' said Louise.
They track, trap and dispatch the moles in a most efficient way.
And now not only is Louise catching moles, she is also now giving talks to schools, groups, organisations and is an after-dinner speaker...giving us a glimpse into the life and times of this extraordinary little mammal which lives beneath our feet.
'The more I learn about them. The more I respect them,' says the woman, who is certainly changing the image of the mole catcher.
'This isn't so much a job, more a lifestyle and one which I really love, out and about in Norwich and Norfolk, and meeting some amazing people. I am a lucky woman,' said Louise.
The moles aren't quite so lucky.
For more details click on www.ladymolecatcher.co.uk