On the potholed drive home from the pub the other night, a creature ran into the beam of our lights. Long, low and lean, for a moment it looked like an otter. One has occasionally been sighted in our village, though like Loch Ness’s fabled monster this is a source of some dispute. But in another second it was clear that this beast was not from the riverbank but the woods.

It was a badger, heedless of danger as it answered the call of the field on the far side of the road, its tawny pelt drookit in the downpour. We were still talking about it when, a few miles further on, we rounded a corner and a smaller badger bustled out of our way. This one was furrier, and decidedly dishevelled – as are we all around here this winter.

Badgers are a common sight in these parts, though usually found pancaked by the roadside. There is one that roams the village, mostly under cover of dark. Now and then it leaves a neatly dug hole near our apple tree, filled with an unsavoury deposit. Where I see a flowerbed, it sees a septic tank.

At dusk one evening, a neighbour stopped weeding and, turning her head, caught one staring her in the eye. A cross-country runner in the woods, wearing a headlamp, came upon one on her path. There was a High Noon standoff, each of them taken aback, before the badger blinked first and scuttled to safety.

When we moved to the Borders, two years ago, we were seeking space, and peace and fresh air, rather than wildlife, but the abundance of animals and birds – most of them anyway – has added immeasurably to its appeal. There are badgers in cities, of course, and probably far more foxes than we ever see in the sticks. My husband did, however, spot a mangy fox in a snowy field, shortly after we arrived. It was clearly half-starving since it was a dangerously easy target in broad daylight. Seeing him it froze, paw in the air, then carried on its way, sinking five inches deep with every step.

As I write, a horse is clip-clopping past the window. The day we came to view this cottage a string of ponies rode by, and I knew this was the place. With their round bellies and young riders, there was a touch of Thelwell in the scene, but also of the wild west. And, as we have since discovered, this is prime equine country. When someone opens a cupboard to find a pair of wellies, the chances are that you’ll see a riding hat on a peg.

For over 10 years we searched for a place in the Borders, an area we have known and loved all our lives. We looked at tumbledown old houses

miles from a phone mast, where you’d have needed to learn smoke signalling. Some were so out of the way only a tractor could have got through in bad weather.

There was a cosy cottage on the edge of a forest whose seller asked if we’d mind looking after the wild birds. The back garden was aflutter with finches and the birdhouse had been clawed by hungry badgers, though out here it might have been bears. Sure, what would be required? “A hundredweight of seed a month,” he replied.

As the years went by, and the estate agents’ emails accumulated, our hopes dwindled. Passing these properties now, we wonder what on Earth we were thinking of. Alan doesn’t even drive.

Yet the urge to get away from concrete and petrol fumes persisted, and eventually this cottage came on the market. Five minutes over the door and we were smitten, and a month later we moved in.

It’s not in the slightest remote, and yet it is deep in the country. We have neighbours nearby, but at night the quiet is so profound you can almost hear the hedgehogs zig-zagging up the road, like supermarket shoppers hurrying along the aisles.

Not that it’s always silent at night. Owls can hoot like hooligans as they gather for their midnight forays. They seem especially noisy around harvest-time, as a friend’s relative discovered. She cut her visit short, having had virtually no sleep.

Yet the first time one tooted in the small hours from the chimney above our bedroom, it felt like a definition of country life. Their calls, whether the storybook twit-to-woo of the tawny owl, or the barn owl’s rusty-door shriek, are not what you’d call a lullaby, but it works for me. In summer, as soon as it’s light, the woodpecker acts as an alarm clock.

The village where we’ve moved – let’s call it Hoolet in homage to the owls – is in Walter Scott territory, a few miles from Selkirk and Melrose. Shortly after we arrived, it was described to us as “floating on gin”, and how true that is, how true.

Almost every garden has a summerhouse, where there is

round-the-clock socialising from

spring to autumn.

What Garrison Keillor wrote of Lake Wobegon also holds true for here: “all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average”.

I’d just add that in Hoolet, 80 is the new 50, Monty Don looks like a rookie, and it never rains but it snows.

Despite constant activity behind the scenes, passersby could easily be fooled into thinking this is a backwater. The biggest excitement I’ve yet seen in the main street was when an escaped bull lost his head.

Rounding the corner, I nearly ran him down as he charged out of the village, nostrils flaring, with four agitated heifers in tow. One fearless villager – the power behind the resilience committee – had headed him off by waving her arms and telling him in no uncertain terms to be gone before he reached the village green. The poor beast was in a lather, not sure where to go next. Swaying uncertainly in front of the car, like a slow-witted prop forward unexpectedly with ball in hand, he suddenly bolted after a cow who leapt a fence and dived down a bank.

Think nothing much happens in the country? You better think again.