The launch event of HedgeOX, with Pam Ayres and a host of other amazing people, was a great way to introduce Oxfordshire to my plans – but – life has a way of creating challenges and since then I have been dealing and coping with the illness and death of my mother. It is wonderful that the funders, the British Hedgehog Preservation Society and the Felix Byam Shaw Foundation, have been so understanding – enabling me to deal with the pain and the bureaucracy.
And now – we are back up and running. The first real outing for the campaign to save Oxfordshire’s hedgehogs was Countryfile Live at Blenheim Palace. This all happened with very little time to prepare – the week after the funeral I was at Port Eliot literary festival talking about Linescapes. So in just a very few days I think that we did pretty well!
First – materials – banners and leaflets. Thanks to the amazing design from Stig that side of things was easy. Then volunteers – as this was going to be a BIG job – over 9 hours of public engagement every day. There was no way I could do that alone … but at such short notice, could I recruit anyone?
Well, yes – and they were amazing. They made the whole job of exciting and enthusing people about the potential to help hedgehogs possible.
We collected hundreds of sightings on a map – actually two maps – we obliterated Witney with hedgehogs in the first two days. Now this was not massively scientific – we were partly measuring where people came from. But it also does suggest that Witney has a healthy hedgehog population.
The people – the stories – we listened to hundreds of stories. And after a while it became clear to me that this is an important part of what HedgeOX is doing. We are enabling people to reconnect with nature by passing on these tales – whether it is the ordinary ‘I saw a hedgehog in my garden’ or the extraordinary ‘I found a hedgehog in my bedroom, it must have climbed up the stairs’ – they were all important moments in the lives of the story-tellers. And we were genuinely interested – affirming the value of the event, reinforcing the connection.
I have been lucky to meet her a few times – and we have ‘chatted’ by email as well. She is a very ‘real’ person – not a TV construct. Genuinely interested and surrounded by a great gaggle of charming children.
So what have we achieved? I have found that people care enough about what I am doing to volume their time – one young man – Jake – who has just finished his A levels and will be heading up to Liverpool to read Zoology – offered a day and a bit and stayed for three days! Jane brought her delightful assistance dog Jason along which help lure in even more. There were 14 amazing people in all – thank you.
What else? HedgeOX works – people get the idea and want me to come to their communities to help get them connected – spreading Hedgehog Street magic around Oxfordshire. Farmers want to learn what they can do too. I am thrilled.
I gave a talk on one of the stages each day and had a lovely moment when I mentioned that Hedgehog Street was about to reach 50,000 signed up champions …. and someone in the audience went on their phone and found that we were already at 50,005!
We gave out hundreds of stickers to happy kids, many of whom got to stroke my very tame hedgehog … as one whit suggested – ‘it is clearly pining for the fjords’ – distributed countless leaflets, collected nearly 200 email address from people who want to take a more active role – and on top of that raised over £100 for the BHPS!
Though the hours between 2-4pm when our tiny gazebo was blasted by the sun were challenging – those four days were some of the most enjoyable I have ever worked – and I really look forward to getting my teeth back into the campaign over the coming months – keep in touch!