The green woodpecker is on the lawn outside the window, immaculate in his army fatigues and red beret, concentrating hard on something tasty under the grass. I hope he hasn’t found chafer grubs. I had a nasty start last week in Cambridge when I saw the croquet lawn at King’s looking as though wild boars had been at it. The culprits in fact are crows. There is a serious infestation of chafer grubs in lawns along the Backs. The light soil and well-mown turf seem to give them just what they want. The crows find them, and peel back the turf to eat them. It is an emergency – if not quite a national one – and there is no quick cure.
There is a chemical treatment available, but you have to wait till spring, or even next summer, when the young grubs come up from their winter quarters. It also costs several thousand pounds, and has to be repeated each summer for three years.
Cambridge’s gardeners are deeply troubled; but not, I imagine, as troubled as the green keepers of golf-courses that become unplayable.