It seems both like yesterday and also a very long time ago that we started Willows Hedgehog Rescue.
In truth it was in 2010 when the rescue was founded by Jayne and me, the result of a blind hedgehog visiting our garden.
We worked with another rescue for some time before founding what has now become a fairly well known and I hope well respected rescue dedicated to the treatment of and for awareness for hedgehogs.
Then Willows consisted of a space made and a few rabbit hutches installed into our garage. Little then did we know that in 2015 we would be undergoing our fourth major revamp in the six years of running.
Three rabbit hutches and a few pet carriers in the corner of a garage seems a long way from the fully kitted out hospital and newly built this year separate off treatment rehabilitation wing. Desk lamps and a wonky hand built table served in those early days along with scrounged hutches. Now the luxury of three prep and examination surfaces, office strip lighting, multiple incubators and magnified examination lights are the order of the day. Of course this hasn't happened over night and a number of revamps and upgrades of the hospital facilities have taken place over the years culminating in this new build. Nothing is ever handed on a plate and it has been a case of hard work and dedication to see the rescue progress to meet the demands put on it and the standards that we strive to work to.
The first year, if my memory serves me well saw maybe forty or so hedgehogs through the doors, the next over a hundred and then as we became better known the flood gates opened with over 320 hedgehogs through the doors in 2014 and already heading towards 250 in 2015 and it is only August. At any one time there can be up to 120 hedgehogs in the rescue and with foster carers. (which reminds me that many pages on the website need to be brought up to date!)
2015 has been (or rather starting in the end of 2014) a land mark year. Fundraising was started in late 2014 to add new flooring, lighting and electrics into the main hospital and to build a purpose built rehabilitation wing with the added benefit of a storage area to house the food and everything else that until then had to be stored in the house.
It has been a long haul and there are too many people and organisations that have helped over the months since the initial concept to thank individually. In late 2014 the foundations went down for the new building. Those sat there for quite some time until we had reached targets and could get companies to agree to dates for the actual build. Once built there was the interior fit out; pens and work surfaces, flooring, the electrics to go in and finally the path to be laid and the opening of the rehab unit. The main hospital also had to be emptied (while still operating) to allow us to lay the new floor in there, fit the new lighting and electrics, extend work surfaces and indeed extend even this area.
It has been both exciting and depressing to see the work progress. Exciting as new things happened and depressing when nothing was happening and our home and garden felt like living in a building site. There is still a long spoil pile from the works but this will morph (with some hard graft) into three habitats allowing us to show what can be created in gardens for wildlife.
In early 2015 Dan our resident blind hedgehog that had been with us for four years died of old age adding to somewhat of a down time for us. However Dan had lived a good life in our secure garden which was managed for him and he was at least seven years old if not eight or nine. But like the original blind hedgehog that started this crazy journey, Dan also left his legacy in people voting for the new wing to be named Dan Dan's Lodge.
Saturday 22nd August 2015 saw the official opening of Dan Dan's lodge with many supporters and volunteers attending the opening along with local press and dignitaries. A few days later the first off treatment hedgehogs moved out of the main hospital into the new rehabilitation wing on their last steps towards return to the wild. In the last couple of days a nursing sow and hoglets has been admitted into the quieter area of the rehabilitation wing, another of its purposes to house maternity pens.
Jayne and I would like to thank everyone who has supported us and who in many different ways and levels has made the refurbishment of the main hospital and build of Dan Dan's Lodge possible. Whether you donated, fund raised, sent items or gave time we appreciate it and we could not have achieved it without your support.
Willows aims stand the same as they have since we started- the Rescue, Rehabilitation and Release of the UK's native European Hedgehog as well as raising Awareness and delivering Education to help create a better future for our only native spiny mammal.
Some more photographs from the period of the build to the final opening in August 2015.