When Four lucky hedgehogs....
...went to live in the countryside
About More than Rescue
Here at Willows Hedgehog rescue we are about far more than simply the rescue, rehabilitation and release of our native European Hedgehog, if indeed that wasn't time consuming or involved enough.
Jayne (Willows Hedgehog Rescue) Adrian (Rush Farm)
We work very hard on awareness and education working to bring the decline of wildlife including the hedgehog to the public attention and encouraging action that can make a positive difference for the future.
This takes many forms from recognising when a hedgehog needs help to making changes in the garden to increase their fortunes. Another aspect is the impact that modern farming practices have had on our native wildlife since the second world war. The drive for greater efficiency by the producers (once known as farmers) and indeed the seeming consumer veracity for more, cheaper and 365 day a year availability of produce (once called food) ignoring any seasonality.
In 2013 we became aware of a project to preserve and put into community ownership a 150 acre, wildlife rich, ethical working farm in the heart of Worcestershire and a short drive from Willows Hedgehog Rescue.
The Farm that inspired
After looking into the history, management objectives and future aims of the farm and on speaking to members of the board mainly Sebastian Parsons and Adrian Parsons we realised that the farm embodied the ethics we held dear. Ethics of local farming, managed bio dynamically in harmony with the natural world.
We took the decision to make a small personal investment allowing us to be a part of supporting the farm and to be involved with it's future.
Rush farm is a 150 acre mixed farm (and the original inspiration for the BBC Radio 4 'The Archers') which includes 22 acres of woodland.It is ran byodynamicaly, is organic, sustainable, low impact and wildlife rich. Under HLS (Higher Level Stewardship) the farms aims and objectives include:
- Wildlife Conservation
- Maintenance and enhancement of landscape quality and character
- Natural resource protection
- Protection of the historic environment
- Promotion of public access and understanding of the countryside
There are a number of objectives for Willows Hedgehog Rescue and the partnership with Rush Farm.
We in order to provide better information to the public wish to know more about farming practices and especially those which are beneficial to wildlife (and ultimately us). We wish to promote ethical wildlife harmonious methods of farming, local produce and community. We hope at some point in the future to work together in delivering education from the farm. We also wish to create environments that may help in reversing the decline of the hedgehog in the countryside. While it is fairly easy for people in towns and cities to make small changes that are beneficial and with many doing so can have large scale impacts it seems more difficult to change things in the countryside where it appears that hedgehog decline is even more serious.
Covering the county of Worcestershire hedgehogs are admitted from both urban and countryside areas to us here at Willows. Where possible the hedgehogs once treated and rehabilitated will go back to the area admitted from, however on occasion there are reasons that preclude this. There are many reasons, it could be that the area is undergoing massive development and the hedgehog was injured through this. It could be from poisoning and we can't be assured that the poisons aren't still there. It can be a litter of hoglets where because of diminishing populations and the risk of inbreeding only a proportion of the litter will go back to the original location.
Saturday the 9th of May saw a landmark date in our relationship with Rush Farm.
The farm had rather excitedly informed us in 2014 of hedgehog sightings on the land and this was a very important piece of information to us beyond being pleased that hedgehogs were there.
It meant that the farm was a suitable release site for hedgehogs that could not go back to the finders. We will not release hedgehogs into areas where hedgehogs are not known. There is a reason that they are absent and our ethics demand that on release the hedgehog is released with the best possible chances of survival. This is why we ask all finders to whom we return hedgehogs to put in a hedgehog home, to provide water and supplementary food and to talk to neighbours about making their gardens suitable and safe for hedgehogs.
Indeed before the releases of the four orphaned hoglets/juveniles and now grown adults this month Rush farm even though wildlife friendly with woodland and hedgerow made and installed four hedgehog homes on the farm.
On Saturday evening Jayne and volunteer Karen traveled over to the farm to meet Adrian for the release of Pig, Gnasher, Hazel and Dew, four 2014 hoglets and now all healthy adults ready to start their lives in the wild.
They were released into two parts of the farm with hedgehog homes provided if they wish to use them. Initial release saw them move into the hedgehog homes however they will make their own choices of moving nest or continuing to use them. They have been tagged for future identification so hopefully we will be able to track the fortunes of these four hedgehog orphans from four separate litters raised here at Willows.
It can be quite an emotional thing releasing hedgehogs back to the wild. The fact that there was a need for them to come to us in the first instance. In these four hedgehogs cases having to be hand raised from hoglets and overwintered due to the onset of winter. The need for them to return to the wild and yet the knowledge that there are dangers however well chosen a release site. For volunteer Karen this was her first experience of release normally volunteering with us in the hospital cleaning and feeding the hedgehogs. However the farm really does provide the best that we could hope for and on a significant scale.
The releases do not represent the start of a specific 'hedgehog area' or reserve if you will and they are not an exercise in population expansion. What they do represent is the ability of farmed land to provide suitable habitat for wildlife including hedgehogs proved by the fact hedgehogs are already living and foraging on the farm. For the already present hedgehogs it does add to the available gene pool and for these four hedgehogs it represents a second chance in life in an area rich in habitat and food. Land that is worked for human needs but that does not set itself apart from nature or ignore that we can and indeed should share our world with wildlife, most of which including the hedgehog having been around far longer as a species than humans have.
(left Dew on admission, Right release)
We would like to thank Adrian, Sebastian and all the Rush Farm team for their support of Willows Hedgehog Rescue and more importantly hedgehogs and for ethics and wildlife in general.
We hope that the examples set by the farm and its management are embraced by many more of the UK's land owners and in so doing provide for a better future for our wildlife, livestock and ultimately for us.
You can find more information about Rush Farm here Rush Farm Stockwood
More information about us here Willows Hedgehog Rescue
Charlie Willows Hedgehog Rescue