Badgers blamed for closure of country lane, near Somerby in Leicestershire
Badgers have been blamed for forcing the closure of a country lane by tunnelling underneath it, causing it to collapse.
Two large craters appeared in the surface of the 1.5 mile lane between Somerby and the hamlet of Newbold, making it impassable to most vehicles.
Highways engineers examined the damage on Friday and say the road will be shut for at least three weeks.
The subsidence was discovered by horse riders from the nearby Somerby Equestrian Centre.
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Horse owner, Katie Jones, who keeps a pony at the centre, said: "The road collapsed just over a week ago. You can see where badgers have dug a hole next to the carriageway.
"It has collapsed and the road surface has fallen in. The same has happened on the other side of the lane."
A worker at the centre said: "The holes in the lane are on the route where we take our horses.
"One side of the road collapsed when someone from the centre was walking past.
"The other side collapsed after a vehicle drove over it."
She said the horses could negotiate the lane, and none had been spooked by the badgers, which were active in the area – and had in the past even invaded their offices.
"One even got in the office one winter and we found it curled up asleep on the floor. We had great trouble trying to get it out," she said.
Simon Galton, county councillor for the area, said: "I have never come across this sort of thing involving badgers happening before.
"Great care will have to be taken to repair the damage. "Before we can touch an active badger sett we will have to get permission from Natural England."
A spokesman for Leicestershire County Council said: "We are investigating the damage which has been caused to the road and we are in discussions with Natural England, the Government's adviser on the natural environment, as to the next course of action.
"We have to be mindful of the badgers' habitat as well as wanting to ensure the road can be reopened as quickly as possible. It is difficult to say at this stage how long the road will remain closed.
"Leicestershire County Council has granted the emergency temporary closure on Newbold Lane from the junction with Main Street, Somerby, to the junction of Newbold Lane, Newbold, near Owston."
He said the closure would be in operation for at least 21 days.
Traffic between Newbold and Somerby is being diverted through Burrough on the Hill.