Hedgehogs are native and widespread across Britain. However, surveys conducted by Peoples Trust for Endangered Species (PTES), British Trust for Ornithology and RSPB have shown that the UK has lost over half its hedgehogs from the countryside and a third from its urban areas since the millennium alone. Recently they have been placed on the British Mammal red list as vulnerable to extinction.
Hedgehogs are a species that can live and thrive happily in urban areas if given the opportunity. They need to roam a mile or more per night safely across green spaces. Walls and fences cause fragmentation. This means they cannot easily travel across an area and find places to nest or mate. Their movement is blocked. Paving over and the use of plastic grass in gardens means they no longer have the correct habitat to find natural food.
Hedgehogs in Chiswick
Our research with Zoological Society of London (ZSL) so far has shown that hedgehogs are present within Chiswick House & Gardens and surrounding streets, across Grove Park and Strand on the Green. We have received sightings from the public and photographic evidence from ZSL cameras. However, so far anecdotal evidence points toward no hedgehog activity having been noted around the Dukes Meadow and surrounding areas for over 8 years. This research is still ongoing, and we hope to find other areas across Chiswick with hedgehog activity. However, if none are found then the Grove Park and Strand on the Green area of Chiswick may be an important yet vulnerable hedgehog stronghold. Building from this evidence we are concentrating on opening green spaces across the Grove Park and Strand on the Green area of Chiswick to allow hedgehogs to roam further easier and safer.
Hedgehog Highways is an initiative created by PTES Hedgehog Street approximately 10 years ago. It encourages householders to cut a small hole (13cms) in their fences and walls which will allow hedgehogs to enter and travel safely across gardens. The hole is not large enough to let out an average sized pet but large enough for a hedgehog to go through. Recent research by Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust found that by opening access to gardens in this way hedgehog sightings increased by 39% and their habitat range increased by 21%.
Written by Jack-Daniel O’Sullivan, aged 9.
“I wrote this story for WildChiswick who are creating Hedgehog Highways throughout Chiswick, West London (in association with Barnes Hedgehogs). I hope that the dream to create a better place for hedgehogs to live alongside us in our cities becomes a reality one day and that my story inspires and educates people to open up their gardens to these wonderful creatures.”
Illustrated by Jack-Daniel’s sister, Dianna, aged 5.
It was early March in the city and the temperatures were just getting warmer. The icy paths had thawed and the city began to come to life. And yet, there was a little hedgehog snoozing in a little crevice between a tree and a fence, submerged entirely in leaves. One tiny beam of sunlight found its way to the little hedgehog inside. It started sniffing, thinking about whether it was time yet. And then the hedgehog’s stomach answered with a low growl. Its limbs felt heavy and lethargic after the long period of hibernation, but its tummy was craving food to nourish it with much needed energy. So, as soon as evening fell, the hedgehog reluctantly waded out of its nest only to find …“What, was this?! Was there really nothing at all?”
As it had been surfacing from its long slumber, the little prickly creature had been dreaming about all the yummy juicy beetles and all the other crunchy insects that gardens have to offer. But here was nothing. There was absolutely nothing in this garden. And this new kind of grass had a bit of a tingly, unnatural feeling. “Off to the next garden I suppose,” it thought. With a tiny sigh, the hedgehog forced its weak legs towards the large fence at the other end of the garden, where it had always passed through to feed on the neighbour’s slugs and bugs.
“Bump!” the hedgehog’s nose hit the unexpected barrier that now loomed above him.
The hedgehog could have sworn that there had been a gap there. Its blurry eyes could not have noticed any such change.
After trialling it a few more times, it resigned itself to heading along the paved path to the front of the house, where it reached the road. The hedgehog hated the road. It was a noisy, busy and dangerous place for it, but it had to go across. At least the worst was over. Now it just had to find a hole further along the road to enter another garden where it could satisfy its aching tummy.
The hedgehog came across a slim hole. It would have to do. It peered in. “Yum.” Right there, it saw tasty colonies of ants and insects. To its horror, in its first bite, the poor hedgehog’s stomach turned. It looked at the garden and saw shiny liquid all over the plants. It could taste the toxic chemicals on its tongue. Fortunately, the hungry hedgehog found a tiny puddle of water nearby and soothed its burning stomach. It immediately searched for a way out to a different garden. There was no way it was going to cross the road again. The little hedgehog had had enough of the road. To its relief, in the corner of the garden, it found some space to squeeze under a gate. “How much easier would this food scavenge be if these gardens had hedges around them for me to pass through, like in the old days?” thought the desperate hedgehog. “Alas, that tight gap under the gate should do.”
On the other side of the gate, the hedgehog frowned. His delicate paws met a cold, rough, grey surface. There was no sign of life in this barren garden. Not even a patch of soil for some flowers or grass to sustain some tasty morsels. Up against the house, it found a bowl of milk, probably left out for the cats. The thirsty hedgehog decided to have a sip, but its tummy quickly reminded it of the last time it had encountered milk. It had not been a comfortable experience.
The hedgehog was beginning to feel exasperated by what should have been a simple mission to feed itself.
How it was going to find a mate in the summer months in this labyrinth of concrete, plastic, roads and obstacles was also beginning to weigh on its worried mind. Sadly, the hedgehog made its way back to the road.
It trotted a few hundred metres along the pavement until something glistening and blue caught its eye in the adjacent fence.
The shining item was in fact a plaque in the shape of a hedgehog, attached above a perfectly round,hedgehog-sized hole!
The little hedgehog peeped in and walked through. It was immediately presented with a little ant. “Slurp!” went the hedgehog. It was feeling happier already!
There was no shiny stuff on the leaves of the bushes around it and the grass didn’t feel spiky. Instead, the soil was soft, the grass was lush and insects were teeming in their hundreds! Furthermore, a small bowl of water lay beside a little cubby filled with hay. “This is going to be the perfect spot to sleep when the sunrises!” rejoiced the hedgehog. This garden was just right for the little hedgehog, but now it still had to find some more gardens as it had devoured all the nourishment this garden could offer for this night. Excitedly, it noticed another plaque above another perfectly round, hedgehog-sized hole! This led to another garden, abundant with food. This time, there was even some cat kibble left out, which the hedgehog feasted on.
And, so, the hedgehog happily wandered through 2km of this repeated pattern of perfectly round, hedgehog-sized holes, fertile gardens, yummy food and refreshing sips of water. Feeling satisfied and energised, the little hedgehog headed back to the garden with the cubby house and nestled itself within the clean, soft hay as the first rays of sun rose over the city’s rooftops.
THANK YOU JACK-DANIEL AND DIANNA, WE LOVED THIS AND HAD TO SHARE IT!
Here are some documents and fact sheets about Hedgehogs that may help you to help them!