MY lawn is under attack. Large, muddy snuffle marks have begun appearing in the neat grass, their edges frayed as if something has been clawing at the ground.

At first, I thought it was the grey squirrels scrabbling at the soil to bury something that they never remember to retrieve. But the size of the marks suggested that we had a new breed of supersized squirrels living in the trees.

Then, at 9.30pm, a neighbour spotted a badger nosing about at her back door. Another neighbour set up a wildlife camera and immediately caught a ghostly black and white shape snuffling in the grass at 2.15am.

There are about 800,000 badgers in Britain and so perhaps it is no surprise that one should have taken a fancy to my lawn just to the south of Darlington. Snuffle marks, I find out, are the first sign of a badger’s arrival, as it works out whether our earthworms, leatherjackets and cockchafers are worth hanging around for.

Despite the size of a badger – twice the bulk of our overweight and useless ginger cat – and the fact that there are more than 1,000 setts in County Durham, I don’t think I have ever seen a live one, although I have spotted plenty dead bodies beside the road.

A few years, ago, though, I was taken to see an enormous sett in a wood near a village to the north of Darlington (I was sworn to secrecy because, even though badger-baiting has been illegal since 1835, there are still sad people who get pleasure through causing them pain). I was told that badgers had been living there for centuries, and it was certainly an impressive excavation. It was like a skateboard bowl of compacted mud, with tunnels leading into the tree roots – badgers are very fastidious animals, having a separate lavatory tunnel and regularly changing the bedding in their sleeping tunnels.

We’ve only known them as badgers (because the white mark on their foreheads looks like a badge) since the 16th Century; before that, in Old English, they were known as brock, meaning grey (our distant ancestors also believed that, like a haggis, the brock’s right legs were longer than its left legs so it could easily run round a hill – this must have given them terrible trouble running home again).

However, in the north, they were known as “pate”, and a couple of old books tell me that in County Durham there is a place called Pate Priest’s Glen – a French hermit priest apparently shared the glen with a sett of brocks, but I can’t find the glen on any map.

In more modern parlance, badgers are referred to as “the JCBs of the animal kingdom”, and the deep slide hole under the fence is proof of our badger’s excavating abilities. To keep it out, I’d either have to put up a fence at least 3ft high and at least 2ft into the ground.

Or I could put packets of crushed chillies around the garden to turn the badger’s snuffling into sneezing, or I could spray human male urine on my fences. Alternatively, I could strategically position lion manure about the place.

At the moment, although I worry for my lawn, the street seems quietly chuffed that a badger has chosen our corner of the world for his snufflings, which is just as well as the corner shop is right out of lion dung.