Castle Park Creatures

 My school, Castle Park in Kendal, has lovely grounds and I imagined what some of the animals who live there might get up to when the children go home. 

It was a late summer’s evening in the grounds of Castle Park and tucked away in the long grass under a beech tree, a group of animals lay together. A stout badger with a grizzled grey snout, a pair of excitable young squirrels, a round hedgehog and a tiny brown mouse with quivering whiskers. They were discussing the children and adults they’d secretly watched that day from amongst the branches and long grass.

“I’m sure I don’t understand the big ones,” said Prickles the hedgehog, “In the morning they stagger in carrying boxes and bags and then in the afternoon they take them away.”

“Well, it’s obvious isn’t it,” replied Benson the Badger in a gruff voice, “that’s their bedding. We badgers do the same thing. Those boxes will be full of dead leaves and dry grass and when it gets smelly they take it away.”

Benson finished with a “Humph” as if he had stated an obvious fact and there was nothing more to be said on the matter.

“I’m not sure,” began Scamper the Mouse delicately, “that humans go into the school to sleep on dead leaves.”

Scamper was the wisest of the Castle Park creatures, but she was kind and only corrected Benson’s more ridiculous statements. The last of the group, Tilly and Tully, the squirrel twins, stopped chasing each other and joined the conversation.

“No,” said Tully, “last week we were in the place with the ropes after school and we could see through a window.”

“The big man with the glasses was sitting on a chair with his head on the desk snoring and when the lady with the clippy-cloppy shoes came in he sat up suddenly and nearly fell off.”

“Very sensible,” grunted Benson, “sleep in the day and you’ll have enough energy to dig up your worms in the evening.”

This time Scamper said nothing, but the end of her whiskers gave a little quiver as she imagined the teachers of Castle Park rooting through the soil for juicy worms.

“Maybe,” chimed in Prickles who had managed to get a sweet wrapper impaled on his back, “he has chicken pops.”

The twins stopped their latest game of pulling faces, Scamper put her head to one side and Benson spat out a particularly delicious beetle.

“What a blithering on about now you spiny simpleton?”

“Chicken pops,” continued Prickles who, after all their years together, was quite used to Benson’s grumpiness. “I was looking for the girl with the short hair today – she sometimes drops her snack on the grass – and I heard someone say she’d got chicken pops.”

“Oh,” said Tilly, who had plucked the sweet wrapper from Prickles’ back and was now wearing it as a hat, “Do you think she’ll explode?”

“Not before she becomes a chicken!” replied her brother with a chuckle and he began to wave his short arms about like a bird’s wings.

As usual, it was Scamper who solved the mystery. Some years ago, she had discovered a tiny hole which led into the children’s library and during the cold winter nights she would spend the night there, looking at the pictures and chewing the odd page when she grew peckish.

“I think she has chicken pox dear, it’s an illness the children get. They feel poorly and they get itchy spots.”

“Well, serves them right,” interrupted Benson, “going about all bald. Why don’t they grow some fur like any decent animal?”

And with this, he trundled into the brambles towards his sett. The sun was setting now and while Benson was patrolling the grounds for crunchy beetles, the other animals would need to be tucked in their homes for the night.

Scamper raised her tiny nose and smelt the damp summer air, full of earthy scents. She turned her head to listen for danger – the soft woosh of an owl’s wigs or the sudden rush of a fox – but heard none. Nothing but the sound of Prickles slowly pushing his body into a pile of crunchy leaves and a pair of mischievous squirrels shouting, “Cluck, cluck … BANG!” from the uppermost branches of an old ash tree.

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