Remembering Pen Lewington

Remembering Pen Lewington

By Sheila Birkin, Jessica Cater, Valerie Russell and Babs Bartholomew


Pen was an active and passionate member of the WKBG committee for many years. She was a firebrand - she didn't hold back when it came to badgers. She loved them and was devoted to them - both across Kent and those that she fed in her garden. Pen was always by your side if you were arguing the case for badgers. She would not hold back when badgers were at risk for any reason, and she spent hours  and hours keeping records about the badgers in West Kent and reporting road casualties to the relevant local councils. We all hold memories of occasions when Pen went the extra mile - or 3 - to get a good outcome for badgers. A lot of work was done behind the scenes and her death is not only a personal loss for those who knew her well but is a tragic loss for our badger group. She was a good friend to many of us and those who knew her well can vouch for her amazing talent - in her craft work, photography and in her knowledge on music and general culture, not to mention wildlife. (Sheila)

I first met Pen many years ago when Jeff and I took a pair of orphaned collared doves to her bird hospital. Subsequently I bumped into her at a few WKBG events where she would enthusiastically show us all pictures of her garden badgers, but we only became friends at the end of lockdown. I was making face masks to raise funds for Folly Wildlife Rescue and Pen offered me some Liberty print fabric which of course was a great seller and assisted my fundraising efforts tremendously. It was then that I discovered she had had a very successful business making soft toys, which is why she had the fabric. We bonded over Liberty print and badgers, and quickly became firm friends. Pen had so many talents but the most special thing about her was her big, open, generous heart. She gave her energy unstintingly to the causes she was passionate about, foremost being wildlife and badgers in particular. She will be greatly missed by many people, which in itself is a wonderful tribute to a kind and loving person. (Jessica)

She was always there for me supporting passionately our work against the badger cull. I hope in some small way I was there for her. Her last words to me on the Friday before her death were, "onwards and up Valerie". I shall remember these words in what will be a difficult year as we fight for the survival of our badgers, so close to Pen's heart and very being. (Valerie)

Pen was extremely helpful when I was, as a rank amateur, caring for released cubs in our disused sett, & supported with tick removal & homeopathic remedies for common issues on their way to full rewilding. Her experience was totally invaluable. Pen’s empathy, her compassion & her utter passion for wildlife in general and badgers in particular, was inspiring. She attended every committee meeting, Fayre, fete, bazaar, workshop & AGM, as well as contributing to newsletters, workshops, cull leafletting & awareness raising events. Her constancy was rare. (Babs)

Tunbridge Wells Lush Event

Lush is a well-known and much-loved cosmetic shop in Tunbridge Wells, founded in 1995 using completely natural products with an, "Against animal testing" policy. They sell only vegan and vegetarian products and have shops all over the Country. West Kent Badger Group has been involved with Lush for two and a half years now. They have been wonderful to us in helping us to campaign against the badger cull.


On Saturday 13th April, we were hosted by Lush in Tunbridge Wells. We were leafleting and explaining to people about the proposed expansion of the badger cull and the likelihood of epidemiological, or epi culling, becoming the new persecution in the life of our badgers. This would mean the continual killing of badgers across large and unspecified areas, with West and Middle England going for 100% wipe-out and possibly Kent and Sussex. Half the population has now been culled. A new Government could mean a change of policy.


Please join us if you can on one of our Lush days in August and October. We are there from 10 to 1 or can go longer.

-- Valerie Russell

Agnes and Wendy Update

An update from Jeff and Jessica about Agnes and Wendy; the two cubs that were rescued in February:


Agnes and Wendy are both doing well at Folly, drinking from their bottles and then sleeping being their favourite things to do. They now look like delightful miniatures of adult badgers. Agnes has had to fight all the way through her 8 weeks of life but is now clear of her immediate health problems and has finished with her medication.

The next challenge over the coming weeks is for them to put on weight and to gradually be weaned onto more solid food. This is likely to be a slow process accompanied by lots of tantrums from the two girls who rather like their puppy milk. Fingers crossed but so far so good.
Anyone wishing to help with these and the other cubs at Folly can visit the Folly wish list on Amazon, become a friend of Folly or simply make a donation. For some items on the wish list, like the puppy milk,  it is necessary to purchase them on Amazon as yourself and change the delivery address to:

Folly Wildlife Rescue
Fairview Lane
Tunbridge Wells

-- Jeff & Jessica


Wendy and Agnes - completely inseparable!

The Kindness of Strangers

The Kindness of Strangers

A month ago, Will and I undertook our first rescue with much trepidation. We’d learnt much from Jeff, but what is straightforward in theory is rarely so in practice. This was one of those rare occasions, but that in itself was a cause for sadness. The adult female badger valiantly tried to bite the grasper as Will got it round its neck but was too unwell to do much more than try. She didn’t make it through the night at Folly.

At the other end of the sadness scale are the two tiny cubs who were rescued that same Sunday. It was pure serendipity that we happened to be with Jeff when he got the call, and he was too polite to deny my unabashed self-invitation to tag along with him. He swiftly retrieved the ice-cold cubs from the hollow of the tree where they’d been found and, as he drove back to Folly, we managed to warm them up against our bellies. The hapless babies, barely bigger than the palm of a child’s hand, squealed and shrieked all the way back, and are now doing well under Folly’s expert care.

Our heartwarming memories of cuddling and warming up the baby badgers are tempered by sadness that the adult female didn’t make it, but what resonates most vividly about both rescues is the unexpected kindness of strangers. The lady who found the adult female badger in her garden, who loves to watch them foraging, her family who took the time to ring around various organisations for help (only WKBG would) while doing what they could to keep the injured badger warm and safe. The couple who discovered the cubs at the base of the tree, who watched over them until we got there, who kept the foxes away and hauled a tree stump over the open hollow to protect the cubs. Most people would do much less, and many would do much worse. So, as much as this is a reminiscence of a badger-filled Sunday, it’s also a thank-you to those kind strangers for helping to give orphaned cubs and injured badgers a fighting chance. And Jeff, you were right - the flea bites were worth it.


Badger cubs on their way to Folly:

Rescued cub being given some stimulation before her feed:

First feed after rescue:

Badger Rescue and Release

In August 2023, Jeff and Jessica were involved in a rescue of a badger. The following is an account of the rescue and eventual release of the badger (which a few lucky members of the WKBG, including myself, were able to witness):


The rescue of this badger was after a call to Folly by a member of the public. He was on a grass verge beside a very busy and fast road, probably having been clipped by a car. Jessica and I had been out on a kestrel release when the call came in. We were not really equipped for a badger rescue, having only a very small cage and a net with us. It was clear that if we could not get the badger he would certainly venture onto the road and probably not survive the experience. On that basis we decided to improvise and give it a go, even though the lady who reported it was convinced that we would never fit the rather large badger into such a small cage. This was far from an orthodox or even ideal rescue but with the net securely over him he was unceremoniously manoeuvred, with a fair bit of difficulty, into the cage.

Once back at Folly he was sedated and examined. For once, not having a crush cage was an advantage as he was squeezed in so tight that giving him an injection was easy.

After a few weeks of rest, recuperation and medication at Folly he was deemed to be fit enough to go back into the wild. A visit to the original rescue site identified a quiet road very close to where he was found and this was selected for the release. A trip back to Folly was made to collect him and then a successful release that evening ended a happy story.

Not a text book rescue but sometimes needs must and the end result was good.


Pictures of the release:


Video of the badger being released:


Badger Training Workshop at Shoreham School Pavilion

Badger Training Workshop 25th February at Shoreham School Pavilion


Members of the WKBG recently enjoyed an informative afternoon learning about what is involved in rescuing badgers. Our trainer, Jeff Cater, is our most experienced rescuer and provided volunteers with detailed descriptions of what happens when a badger is in trouble and assistance is required.

During the training, Jeff went through the equipment needed for rescues and those participating were given the opportunity to test their newly acquired rescue skills with a toy badger using a grasper and a cage. We are at the start of a very busy period relating to badger rescues, and are pleased that, as a result of this training, we have been able to add a number of names to our list of volunteers in the ‘rescue’ group. We hope to hold another workshop later in the year

Funeral of Dave Witherspoon

Funeral of Dave Witherspoon


The funeral of Dave Witherspoon, the WKBG’s President, is at 1pm on Monday 29th January in St Mary’s Church in Downe (25 High St BR6 7US). Following the service there is a wake at the village hall which is opposite the church. We are grateful that the WKBG will be one of the beneficiaries of donations given in Dave’s memory.

Dave Witherspoon

Dave Witherspoon


Our WKBG President, Dave Witherspoon, died suddenly on 7th December. He was 87 and although no longer able to be actively involved in rescues and events any more, he was still an enthusiastic participant in the group. In fact he participated in our Zoom committee meeting on 5th December, providing encouragement and offering that special smile of approval when we discussed some of the current activities within the group. We are all devastated and our thoughts are with his wife of 57 years, Dorothy, and their sons and families.

Dave has been a key member of the WKBG for 30 years and most of us who are actively involved now, not to mention those who were committee members and volunteers in the past, learnt so much from Dave. Many of you will have attended one of his training mornings which were so informative and also good fun. I know Dave prepared in a meticulous way for these sessions as he cared for badgers and wildlife so much that he wanted to ensure that all of us would be properly prepared for any work we took on following the training.

As well as training us, Dave took on numerous work examining planning applications and  - often with Dorothy - he would make site visits and his reports and recommendations were always thorough and well balanced. He built up an excellent rapport with the Met police and with Bromley council and we are now still benefitting from those good working relationships that he built up.

Dave was a thoroughly decent, kind and caring human being. He was incredibly knowledgeable about badgers and their way of life and we are all thankful and grateful to have had the privilege of spending time with him.

We publish below, the words of our committee member, Darren Russell, who runs the Bromley Badgers media page and who has taken on the role of Field Officer in Bromley following Dave's retirement a few years ago:

It's with a heavy heart that I have to announce that last week we lost a true Badger Champion and a great mentor to me personally and to many others.

Dave Witherspoon, Bromley Field Officer for over 25 years and our first ever President, was a dedicated member of the West Kent Badger Group for over 30 years and has left a big hole in our hearts.

For those that knew him really well, he was Dave. Our 'go to' for any Badger Advice, rescues, information and the first person I called 10 years ago when a local sett was attacked.

For other Bromley nature loving folk, he was just known as the Badger Guy. A term he was very fond of.

I'd got to know Dave back in 2010, when he attended a Spring Walk for a local Friends group I was social secretary for. He gave a brilliant talk n walk pointing out Badger setts and explaining how badgers life their lives. It was the sett attack in 2013 that I really began to gain a complete interest in Badgers and I started to really take in what Dave was telling myself and others. He would give numerous talks to all ages, young and old, gained a great connection with Bromley Council, and was an inspiration to loads especially a few of my other Ranger colleagues.

After hanging up his boots back in 2020, I was absolutely delighted when he suggested that I should take his role as Bromley Field Officer and it was an honour to accept. His words are still repeated when I give talks and deliver presentations. Since then he had been our consultant in anyway to the West Kent Field Officers, our planning investigation Officer and finally our first ever President.

All of us at WKBG, Bromley Friend's Groups, LBB Staff, and all local nature lovers send our thoughts to his wife Dorothy and their family 🦡💔

-- Sheila Birkin

Badger Event at Tunbridge Wells Lush

Badger Event at Tunbridge Wells Lush - 27th October 2023

A last minute offer to become the Lush chosen 'Charity Pot' for the weekend beginning 27th October, was enthusiastically accepted by committee member Valerie Russell. Valerie, with a small team of volunteers, attended the Lush shop distributing leaflets about the iniquitous badger cull and talking to customers about the work of the WKBG.

Lush donated an amazing £423 to us which will go towards our Vets Fees fund.