A People’s Manifesto for Wildlife

Back in the heat of the summer I got a call from Chris Packham. In itself, exciting enough, but his message made it even more so … ‘I have two things to say,’ he began, ‘The first is that you cannot speak to anyone about the second.’

And so began my role in the creation of what is now a magnificent ‘Manifesto for Wildlife’. There are 18 ‘Ministers’ who have each taken on a ‘Department’. Clearly he thought that a Minister for Hedgehogs was too niche … and if there had been more time I might have argued my point … but I have to admit to being thrilled to being ‘Minister for Lines’ – actually, I am in charge of the Ministry for Hedgerows and Verges.

Minister for Lines amuses me – when I was at Hay Festival in 2017, launching Linescapes into the wild, there was a question/statement from the audience calling for me to be given this job – which was greeted with a cheer … long before it was even a spark in Packham’s eye!

Running in conjunction with the Walk for Wildlife – taking place on Saturday 22nd – the Manifesto is a brave and rigorous call for an end to the War on Wildlife. As Chris has written, “We say that ‘we’ve lost 97% of our flower rich meadows since the 1930s’ or that ‘we’ve lost 86% of the Corn Bunting population’. We speak of ‘a loss of 97% of our Hedgehogs’. Loss , lost . . . as if this habitat and these species have mysteriously disappeared into the ether, as if they’ve accidentally vanished. But they haven’t – they’ve been destroyed.”

This is a war – launched by an economic system that refuses to accept responsibility for the costs it hands onto the planet. Economists call these ‘externalities’ – a company makes a profit from a product or process only because it does not pay the cost of the damage exacted on us all. At the heart of the Manifesto is the need to have these costs accounted for.

The details are developed by an amazing band of independent writers and thinkers – and I am so thrilled, and rather awestruck, to be in such company.

In this ‘male, pale and stale’ world of wildlife it is also vital that Chris has ensured balance – 50% women – a wide mix of age and background – and there are ministries to look into inclusion of race and class. The natural world is fundamental to us all – whatever colour, class or creed.

So – the Manifesto – it is beautiful, exciting, challenging – and it is also just the start – ‘Draft One’. We do not represent everyone – we have not pulled on all the wisdom out there – this is the beginning. So join and help us make it better – make connections, overcome the fragmentation that hits both us and wildlife so hard – Download it, read it, share it – please.


Hedgehog-Killer Traps


Press release – for immediate release

16th August 2018

FROM: HedgeOX – the campaign to save Oxfordshire’s hedgehogs

Hedgehog-killer trap

Yesterday evening, Oxford resident Jamie Clarke was horrified to find a hedgehog killed in the squirrel trap he had reluctantly had positioned in his garden by a pest control company.

“My first thought was to keep my children from seeing it – as they love hedgehogs and would have been distraught to find we had inadvertently killed one. My second was anger – how could a pest control company be so reckless as to place traps like this in our garden?”

It is now well known that hedgehog populations are declining dramatically. The latest results from the State of Britain’s Hedgehogs report, published earlier this year, reveal that urban hedgehog numbers are down by 30% since the turn of the century, and rural numbers down over 50%.

This is the reason that HedgeOX was launched (in June, with Pam Ayres, at Oxford’s Natural History Museum) – and for the most part the campaign is very positive. The reaction to our presence at Countryfile Live, for example, was overwhelmingly positive.

But to find that traps are being used, the WCS Tube Trap in this case, which can kill hedgehogs is an outrage.

The pest controller who set the trap said “In over 10 years of work I have never seen this happen and I was utterly gutted when I found the poor hedgehog. I told the client, I will spread the word to the industry, we must ensure that traps are set in such a way that hedgehogs are not killed.”

Fay Vass, CEO of the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, said, “This is a very distressing case, but sadly not isolated. We have been in touch with DEFRA about the dangers traps pose to our dwindling hedgehog population. Their response has been that it is down to the trapper to ensure non-target species are excluded from traps. Here we clearly see how even a professional with many years’ experience failed to do this and the result is another dead hedgehog. BHPS has been campaigning against the use of the A24 trap in the UK, developed to kill hedgehogs in New Zealand, and now being sold unaltered here, it is widely available online and is of great concern.”

The threats that Oxfordshire’s hedgehogs face are many and include: being killed on the roads, having their ability to move through gardens blocked by new fencing (put in a hedgehog hole!) and having the rural landscape become inhospitable through loss of food and shelter. The death of this one hedgehog alerts us all to an additional threat. But this is one we can really do something about.

Make sure that if a trap must be used it is hedgehog safe. And always consider non-lethal control as the first option.

For more information about HedgeOX – please contact Hugh Warwick

HedgeOX is funded by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society and the Felix Byam Shaw Foundation.

For more information about the State of Britain’s Hedgehogs:


For more information about the BHPS A24 Trap Campaign:


HedgeOX up and running … Countryfile Live

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.

Now I am not a ‘fan’ – I don’t go collecting autographs or selfies (often) – but when Ellie Harrison stopped by I could not miss the chance … 

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!


While the website is being constructed – here is a little more about what is planned:

HedgeOX – Saving Oxfordshire’s Hedgehogs

Hugh Warwick, known to all as Hedgehog Hugh, launches an innovative new campaign to save the nation’s favourite animal at Oxford’s Natural History Museum 12th June at 6pm. HedgeOX, funded by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) and the Felix Byam Shaw Foundation, invites all to come along and learn how they can become part of the solution to the problems hedgehogs face.

Ecologist and author Hugh began working on hedgehogs over 30 years ago and has remained passionate and fascinated about them ever since. Working with the Hedgehog Street campaign – the collaboration between the BHPS and the People’s Trust for Endangered Species – he has been at the centre of both research and conservation efforts.

“We know that urban hedgehog numbers are down by 30% in the last 17 years – and that for rural hedgehogs it is even worse, with the population down by 50-75%,” he said. “Hedgehog Street has been helping urban hedgehogs and there it looks like the decline for them is levelling off. Rural hedgehogs present a whole new set of complications that we are now looking at more closely.”

With HedgeOX Hugh has got another mission in mind. “Oxford has been my home now for nearly 25 years now – and the county has a wonderfully diverse set of potentially hedgehog-friendly habitats. Yet the population has fallen as much here as anywhere else. I want to reverse that decline.”

The main work is in over-coming fragmentation – this can mean making sure there are holes in garden fences (the size of a cd case will do) through to encouraging farmers to plant more hedges and allowing the ones that are there the space to grow to make hedgehog highways and habitat.

There is no way he can manage to convert the whole county into a hedgehog-friendly space on his own. So a key aim of HedgeOX is to recruit Hedgehog Heroes from around the county. People who know their own patch and are willing to work with their neighbours to expand the areas within which hedgehogs can thrive. Hugh will be on hand to provide expertise and guidance – and also, given his reputation for energetic and entertaining lectures, recruitment of other volunteers too.

With tongue in cheek he is developing a ‘Hedgehog Roadshow’ that will take to the highways and byways of Oxfordshire in the Autumn – so if you want to get Hugh to visit, drop him a line.

“Hedgehogs are the most amazing, delightful, charismatic and important creature we have in this county,” he said. “You can get close to a hedgehog in a way that you cannot with any other wildlife – and this closeness means we get a chance to look into the eyes of a truly special animal. And once you have done that, got nose-to-nose with a hedgehog – well, there is no turning back! You will have fallen under the spell – and are on the fast-track to becoming one of Oxfordshire’s Hedgehog Heroes.”

A hedgehog from the Little Foxes rescue centre – soon to be released into the wild.

Lost Words inspiration …

A friend of mine tweeted at me – suggesting I join in a game of acrostics … This might seem a little esoteric for those not exposed to the beauty of Jackie Morris and Robert Macfarlane‘s (who has the best twitter stream in the history of twitter … if you don’t believe me, go visit!) new book, The Lost Words – but those of you who have met it will understand immediately.

I was assured that it would be fun … write an acrostic on your favourite animal …

For example twitterer @teacherglitter went with:

Cooperation is ambiguous;
Anomalies of sense and reasoning-
The epitome of singularity.

@eylanezekiel also went for a short one:

Fidgeting flyer
Leaping leech
Endless egg-layer
Annoying accompaniment

@mrfinch flew with this one:

Whirls and wheels.
In between the slates and skies,
Fierce poetry of curlicues.
Tumbling out of our world and into heaven’s.

So I had to give it a go. I am no poet – but I do love words and wordplay … as I am sure many of you do too. So have a read of my little effort and then start building your own. Add them to the comments – and I will make sure that Rob and Jackie get to see them!

Hedgebound hedgehogger
Edge-loving follower
Divining routes through roots and leaves,
Grazing on grubs;
Everybody loves you for being so at
Home in your ancient prickly body.
Only now our love is not enough;
Going, going, gone?

11 things you can do to help hedgehogs – #4 will change your life

November always sees a surge in interest in hedgehogs. The British Hedgehog Preservation Society, and many others, put a lot of effort into reminding people to check bonfires before lighting them. It is a shame that building the perfect hedgehog home and building a bonfire are so very similar … and poor hedgehogs are unable to predict the outcome.

But avoiding burning hedgehogs is just one part of the effort we need to put into their protection. The campaign Hedgehog Street has collected some top-tips – so have a look now and see what else you can do to help the nation’s favourite animal (that is no hyperbole!)

  1. Link your garden. Hedgehogs may seem small, but can easily cover 1-2km a night. Make sure they can get into your garden; make a small hole (13x13cm will do) … but talk to your neighbours first!
  2. Make your pond safe. Hedgehogs can swim, but not for ever, so need help getting out of steep sided ponds. Make sure there is a ‘beach’ or a ramp.
  3. Create a wild corner. Leave a patch of your garden to become self-willed – see what happens. The hedgehogs will love it.
  4. Dismantle industrial capitalism. Seems like a big ask, but if we are to return hedgehog populations to what they once were, we need to do something radical. Start by reducing the amount of meat you eat – then stopping eating it before becoming a vegan. This will liberate vast areas of the countryside from mono-cultures of animal-feed if enough people join in. We will be healthier, animals happier and wildlife will have a chance to thrive. As for the rest of the monolith of industrial capitalism – I am up for hearing ideas!!
  5. Litter and netting. Tidy up litter that can catch and kill – and make sure garden netting is not touching the ground. Hedgehogs, once caught, will roll up and become further entangled. If not found quickly, they will die.
  6. Food and water. These carnivores need meat. You can supplement their diet with meaty pet food. Water is also crucial.
  7. Stop using agro-chemicals in your garden. Not only do they directly impact on the ability of hedgehogs to live, or thrive, they also wipe out hedgehog food.
  8. Strimmers. Amazing weapons against weeds, but because the hedgehog has no fight or flight response (thanks to evolving their wonderful coat of spines) they do not move when the roaring threat approaches. Check before you flay.
  9. Bonfires. Just repeating what I have already said. Don’t burn a hedgehog. Unless it is roadkill you intend to eat.
  10. Logpile. Build one in your garden. They are brilliant shelter. They attract hedgehog food. They serve so much other wildlife too.
  11. Become a Hedgehog Champion. Simple. Join the nearly 50,000 households who have committed to helping hedgehogs through the Hedgehog Street campaign.(Yes, I know it is out in daylight. This is a rescued hedgehog performing for me at a wildlife hospital. Hedgehogs are, of course nocturnal and that, on the whole, if out in the day, not well and in need of care. Contact your local rescue if you find one … after you have secured it … details on BHPS website)Much of this information is directly from the Hedgehog Street and the website has loads more top tips on how to help the nation’s favourite animal.

The real measure of where we are …

The news – at last – is reporting on something far more important than celebrity tittle-tattle, or even the ravings of tiny-hand-Trump. Following on from the ‘ecological Armageddon‘ piece in the Guardian the Today Programme has also deigned to cover this rather vital story. I wrote about the same research back in May – again in the Guardian … but this is a new paper looking at the data … and how terrifying it is …

My summary included the figure of an 80% reduction in insect biomass found in Germany over a 30 year period. The most recent data put the figure at a 76% reduction in 27 years.

Do you see what that means?

We, quite rightly, become agitated at the thought of the loss of biodiversity, the loss of a species locally, regionally, nationally or globally is a disaster. But we seem to worry less about the build up to that final moment – yet we need to, and that means a focussing of our thoughts on the loss of bioabundance. The ‘great thinning’, as the wonderful writer Michael McCarthy described it in his superb book ‘Moth Snowstorm’, is a previously unreported disaster. But it is the calling card of the Anthropocene, the human generated geological epoch.

We could worry that these are the insects that are important for pollination of food plants, that are necessary for keeping other pest species in control – but this anthropocentric thinking is why we are in this parlous state. We need to grow up and shift our perspective. The loss of biomass – and it should be noted that there has not been an increase in loss of biodiversity in the study area … displaying the weakness of relying on that as a measure – is far more important than what impact it might have on us.

It is bigger, too, than the cascade of disaster that will follow – as the intricate network of life that feeds on each other is interrupted.

The real scale of this is in its evidence of how deeply we have damaged the system of life on which we (a global/multi-species ‘we’) completely depend. Every process of life on earth is a subset of the ecosystem. Yet the very processes that are destroying this system – ‘progress’, ‘industrial capitalism’ or what ever name you give it – assumes, with staggering arrogance, a position of superiority.

I do not know the answer – how we get out of this. But I do think we might be getting to a time where the true scale of our annihilation of life on earth is a subject that is considered worthy of news. And that has to be a good start.

A day (or two) at Hay

It was only afterwards that I realised quite how tense I had become … the tiredness hit me and I still feel I could sleep all day. My third trip to Hay was all I could have hoped for – and a perfect antidote to the awful legacy of my last trip, when I went to talk about The Beauty in the Beast and, thanks to events beyond my control, had to cope with a 0900 slot just after a huge thunderstorm … and had just 16 people turn up …

This time, photos thanks to my lovely wife Zoe Broughton, was wonderful. First there was evidence of my favourite sort of line … a queue!

Oliver Balch was a well informed and generous interviewer – I was not comfortable with the idea as I am used to being in control and just talking … but we ended up properly ‘in conversation’ and I hope the audience had as much fun as we did!

Book signing – lots of interesting additional questions and a surprise visit by friends of my mother (who promise to report back!) – but NO REST – as I had been booked in to do a Four Thought recording straight afterwards.

Again, I was not looking forward to this as I had to read a script that was still being edited just before my previous talk … again, it went so well. Though in both talks, there was a very swift shift to – ‘lets kill badgers, that will help’ style of questioning … I tried hard to be moderate in my response … though the suggestion that I must be in favour of fox hunting as it encouraged lots of hedges got rather short shrift!

So, thank you Hay, it was a blast. And thank you to the amazing people we met around it as well. For example the brilliant, funny and kind Carrie Quinlan – though she did FAIL to mention hedgehogs …

The fascinating cyber-psychologist Mary Aiken with whom I shared the Four Thought stage – and then a lovely evening of food and wine … and who took dear Mati under her wing.

And then there was Anthony Horowitz – despite massive queue that would have kept him signing for at least two hours, he gave time to the children – here with Pip …

Loads more fun and games was had – but that is plenty for now. If you have not been before, I recommend a trip to Hay … even if you are not an author (access to the Green Room was a rather special treat!).

Kindling again …

The idea of the Kindling stage at Wood Festival is straightforwards. I recruit speakers who are passionate about thinking and action and give them 30 minutes and an audience. The fires of revolution will not take without a little kindling …

And this year, well, it was the ‘Year of the Hedgehog’ at the festival. The amazing Nick Cope had been coerced into writing a hedgehog song – one that happened to feature a hedgehog called Hugh. I even got invited onto stage with him when he performed it, so I could talk a little to the audience about hedgehogs … and when I asked them what hedgehogs did when frightened, well, this is what they did!

Hedgehogs featured everywhere, on the programme, in the craft tent and clearly in my tent. Despite my latest book only just having been published I used the opening slot of the 16 to talk about hedgehogs.

Blessed by the clouds opening, I got a great crowd. Thanks Zoe for photo.

I am not going to go through all the speakers, who were all fantastic – here is an indication of what you missed (if you indeed did miss)

Here are a few highlights …

Steve Larkin is part comedian, part musician, part poet and he brought all three bits of himself along to the tent. He videoed himself and I hope that sometime soon there maybe a recording …

Helen Baczkowska talked on the subject of England’s common land – it was utterly fascinating, intelligent and accessible. It was one of the talks I would have been happy to let over run (but I am a ruthless host).

I was also ruthless this year in kicking out regulars (sorry!) but really it was great to get in so many new faces and voices. One of the only repeats was Lucie Mayer – who has been coming every year to talk about her dream of creating a City Farm for Oxford. And each year there has been a story of massive obstacles, slight progress, irritating bureaucracy and dedication. This year was different. They have signed a 40 year lease on hand not a frisbee throw from my front door.

Kate Sudweeks I know firstly through dancing but more recently as a writer. She was working with a group of girls that included my daughter – a sort of coming of age group – and gave her a copy of the book she had written. Mati loved it, so I recommended it to an agent, who has since gathered Kate under her wings and I hope for great things … So Kate brought writing to the tent and offered it up less as a way of communicating (what I try to do) but as a form of healing. It was impressive.

I have known Helen Edwards for years – when I photographed her dancing with a Butoh troupe I thought I had found her ‘edge’. But no, she is always pushing and this year, in January, she did a ‘Dip a Day’ raising money for homeless charities in Oxford. Swimming in rivers or the sea, ever day, takes some dedication.

Literary agent Jemima Hunt came and talked about how to sell a book – this could have gone on for ages too as she generously gave of her time and roped in my agent – James Macdonald Lockhart too. He was there with his wife, Nichola Deane and the musician Ben Avison to capture the wilds in music, poetry and prose. Clover Stroud talked movingly about her wild love and her new book, The Wild Other. The heart and other wonders featured in Caspar Henderson‘s introduction to his new book. And Kindling Housing Cooperative came and talked about the challenges and successes of setting up an alternative to the daunting conventional housing situation.

Tom Moorhouse manages to juggle being serious ecologist at University of Oxford and a highly successful author of children’s books about animals. So did I get him hear to talk about the minimum viable population analysis he did for us on hedgehogs? Or about water voles, rats and toads?

And last, Sasha Norris, who came equipped with hedgehog, owl and rats, that entranced and entertained while she educated.

Wood was awesome – wonderful people in a great setting – thanks to all who made it possible.

John Lewis and the fake hedgehog!

My friends know me well – and it was not long after the new John Lewis Christmas advert was launched this week that they were telling me on social media about one of the ‘stars’ – a bouncing hedgehog.

If you have not seen it yet, the advert stars an enchanting boxer dog called Buster which can’t wait to bounce on the trampoline his six-year-old owner Bridget receives for Christmas.

The dog is seen watching from a sitting room window on the night before Christmas as all sorts of wild garden animals frolic on the trampoline, which is wrapped in a red bow in the garden, as Bridget sleeps upstairs. There are a couple of foxes, a badger, a squirrel … and a hedgehog, all jumping away as Buster looks on, missing the fun.


Now, I know something about hedgehogs. I started studying them over 30 years ago, have written two books about them and am a vigorous advocate for this most wonderful of all Britain’s creatures. So I pay great attention when they appear in something so grand as a John Lewis Christmas advert – which has become as much a fixture in the calendar as an EastEnders Christmas fight.

And what is not to love about it? Doting parents, dotty Buster and amazing computer-generated imagery of wildlife having a party. The story is perfect – the energy and glee of the child is brilliantly captured, though I do have to question the ease with which she settled down to bed on Christmas Eve. 

Criticising the John Lewis advert is like admitting to having a hobby of sticking pins in puppy’s eyes – and I completely accept that doing so may result in my social death. But … it’s the wrong sort of hedgehog!

flying hedgehog john lewis

The hedgehog that features is one of the African hedgehogs that have been bred as pets mainly in America and they are very different in form to our wild European hedgehogs. African Pygmy Hedgehogs are, as their name suggests, smaller than our European ones. They can come in a multitude of patterns with the spines being pale, white, brown or even piebald. Our ones are always a greyish brown and utterly unsuitable as pets.

It is not the first time I have spotted this mistake. There was that Ribena advert last year. Great music, robins and rabbits and geese all featured and the company made great play of sourcing their blackcurrants from a bucolic Britain. But the hedgehogs they used in the advert? Again, pet hedgehogs and the wrong species.

Ribena hedgehog

Sega, the company behind Sonic the Hedgehog video games have fallen foul of this as well. In 2010, they backed an advert drawing attention to the declining wild hedgehog population, which featured a hedgehog crossing a blue and white zebra crossing, complete with lollipop lady – and three of the four stunt hedgehogs they used were of the wrong sort.

Sonic the Hedgehog lollipop lady

Does this matter? Or am I just being a hedgehog nerd?

Well I would argue it does matter. These ‘cute’ hedgehogs kept as pets are often abandoned. Owners can’t cope with their nocturnal activities – hedgehogs go to the loo on the move and when running on a wheel often get covered in their own faeces so have to be cleaned every morning. They are covered in prickles and, unless really well reared, potentially quite bitey. Which all means they can end up in hedgehog rescue centres blocking beds which might be used by their wild European cousins.

But perhaps more importantly, their use in the John Lewis advert is a reflection of the way we regard our native wildlife.

It would be a shoddy advert that used an image of Buckingham Palace when talking about the Palace of Westminster, for example, or the Mona Lisa when discussing the works of Botticelli. So why do we not pay as much attention to the very real natural wonders that we can find in our garden?

Was this carelessness or ignorance? The advertising company, Adam&EveDDB, claim their aim in the John Lewis advert was not to represent any particular species, as these animals are all ‘mythical’ anyway. Hallie – they’ve given the prickly little creature a name – is apparently the computer-generated imagery result of a composite of hedgehogs, though none of them European I fear.

The complaints that the advert has generated are more about the other species, though. The effective campaign of hatred against badgers and foxes has manifest in considerable ignorance, reflected in worries of the badger giving children TB and foxes attacking sleeping toddlers.

Foxes and badgers are among my favourite animals. Some of my first memories of wildlife came from the thrill of being watched by a fox. I remember hiding in the hedge in the fields behind my parents house in Chester, I would have been 8 or 9, and getting the sense that someone was looking at me and turning, slowly, expecting to see a person, and finding I was sharing a gaze with a fox.

The excitement of seeing a badger crossing your path at dusk is very real, they always seem much larger in the half light. And of course, I would not have spent 30 years studying and writing about hedgehogs if I was immune to their charm.

Now to the tricky bit – badgers and hedgehogs cavorting together? Well, I get regular links to videos sent to me from trail cameras set up in gardens that show hedgehogs and badgers feeding together, or in one memorable instance, the hedgehog scaring off the badgers.

When there is a rich source of food this does seem to happen. But, this is not, and forgive the joke, a black and white issue. For while we know that badgers eat hedgehogs, and we know that where there are increasing numbers of badgers, there are decreasing numbers of hedgehogs, it is actually a more complex issue. 

Badgers and hedgehogs are primarily competitors – they both eat worms and other invertebrates like beetles and caterpillars. But when the environment changes, when there is less of this food available, then predation can be a problem.

These two species have lived together since at least the retreat of the last ice sheet around 10,000 years ago. It is only now, because we humans have placed pressures on their habitats, that the hedgehog suffers from the attentions of the badger.

And while foxes would be hard pressed to tackle an adult hedgehog, they too are known to injure them and kill the young. Though it is not thought that they have an impact on the population as a whole.

Can we ‘blame’ these larger carnivores for their action? Nature can be rather red in tooth and claw, but nature can also be wonderfully adaptable. If we want, as I most certainly do, to see more hedgehogs in the wild we do not need to go attacking badgers and foxes, but instead should look more widely at improving the lot of all wildlife.

Hedgehogs face many problems at the moment. Their population has declined by around a third in urban areas and up to three quarters in the countryside. There are many factors at play.

The roads busy with cars kill thousands and chop up the landscape, stopping hedgehogs moving about.

Fields given over to industrial agriculture, smothered in agrochemicals and stripped of wildlife are no home to hedgehogs.

Even in our own gardens, lovingly tended for beauty, birds, bees and butterflies, we sometimes forget about the more interesting beasts that snuffle in the night.

This is why we launched the Hedgehog Street campaign. The collaboration of the British Hedgehog Preservation Society and the People’s Trust for Endangered Species is encouraging us all to think more about hedgehogs, and as a first step, make a small hole, only the size of a CD case, into our garden fences so that these prickly beauties can move.

hedgehog hole

In a rich environment, with plenty of food and shelter, foxes, badgers and hedgehogs can co-exist. These are not fantasy environments. We used to have such a countryside, and we can have the potential for similar diversity in our gardens, if we are willing to take the time to ‘think hedgehog’. 

It does not take much – a compost heap, leaf pile, escape ramp out of the pond, not forgetting those hedgehog-sized holes in fences and walls – small enough to keep out badgers and foxes.

So does the scene on the trampoline represent a vision of garden harmony? A deliberate attempt to show us some sort of ecological utopia?

Or is it, as I rather expect, like the choice of Hallie, an African hedgehog – done without any thought for our natural surroundings, but because it is cute and might just get us to spend a little more in the store?