Sandy, Bedfordshire: The grass has grown taller than a rabbit’s ears and there’s not a bunny in sight
Dawn over the meadow at Sandy Warren used to bring rabbits bobbing up out of their burrows to graze over grass as short as their own fur. Thirty or 40 pairs of eyes on open ground meant that they were disinclined to move, other than to shuffle forwards for a fresh bite. This was their home turf, just as it had been for hundreds of generations before.
There are numerous named warrens in the heathlands. Rabbit farming appeared to give the best return in the middle ages for landowners who tried and failed to grow crops in thin, acidic, sandy soil. A coney warren under royal licence was the poorer hunting gentry’s deer park. By Henry VIII’s reign, Clophill Warren, a dozen miles away, could be leased for £3 a year. In late Victorian times, fecundity and abundance were registered in the records of this estate on the hill, where the “bag” from Arthur Wellesley Peel’s shoots numbered in the hundreds every time.