By Hayley Pugh
This woman has wild animals quite literally eating out of her hand after creating a sanctuary for them in her suburban back garden.
Christine Ian is visited by a family of badgers every night without fail and is also often greeted by foxes and squirrels.
The family of four badgers have been affectionately named by Christine as Mr and Mrs Lumpy, alongside their cub, three-year-old Humbug and more recently Humbug’s cub, nine-month-old baby, Bella.
Christine first stumbled upon Mr Lumpy after moving into her new home – built on the footprint of an old mill in Stockport, Greater Manchester – with her husband 14 years ago.
She began leaving food out for him and since then, he has regularly returned to her garden with his ever expanding family.
Now, Christine has formed such a strong bond with the animals, they come to visit her every night – wandering right up to her patio door so she is able to hand feed them treats from her living room.
She said: “The garden backs onto woodland and when we moved in we soon discovered a path running through the garden which turned out to be a badgers run.
“For the first few years we left food out and took the odd picture but it was on a proper camera rather than a mobile phone and as such we didn’t really look back at them.
“It was only around seven or eight years ago when I started using my phone for pictures I looked at them regularly and realised from the markings it was the same badgers returning time and time again.
“People often wonder how I tell them apart but I see them every day so I know them really well.
“Aside from the woodland we live near a really busy road so feeding them is a way of keeping them safe.
“They don’t need to venture far for food because the woods provide everything for them that they would naturally need.
“The badger buffet I give to them is just an added bonus. They have the best of both worlds here so they choose to keep coming back and I love having them.”
The 53 year-old has taken advice from experts including the High Peak Badger Group on what to feed the family, with their usual menu including nuts, grapes, raisins and raw eggs.
As a special treat, from time to time, Christine will also feed them biscuits and has even been known to put on a badger afternoon tea, complete with scones and pate on toast.
Christine is also regularly visited by foxes called Foxy Loxy and her cub Roxy, as well as squirrels, rats, wood mice, bats, owls and even a polecat on the odd occasion.
The animals enter through an archway made from a bright pink frame which Christine calls ‘Narnia’ because she doesn’t know what creature might come through next.
She organises monthly meet ups at her house where wildlife enthusiasts are able to come and watch the action from her house. The creatures are so used to Christine they happily come right up to the open patio doors.
She said: “It is proving to be extremely popular.
“People don’t often see badgers in the wild and they tend to get quite emotional. I have had a few people crying before.
“I run around one a month but the demand is definitely there for more.
“The money raised from these go to wildlife charities too.”
With an ever-expanding following online Christine has also launched an online shop selling merchandise such as mugs and calendars featuring ‘Mr Lumpy and Friends’.
In the future she also hopes to turn her experiences into a series of inspiring children’s books and turn a few young readers into the animal conservationists of the future.