Updated: Mar 4, 2022
We are lucky in Long Ashton to have hedgehogs living in and around the village. In the decade up to 2018, the UK had lost over a half of rural hedgehogs and a third from towns and cities and there is a real concern that we could loose hedgehogs for good (see https://www.hedgehogstreet.org/about-our-hedgehog-street-campaign/stateof/ ).
So, to encourage others to help our local hedgehogs, I thought I’d share my experience of building a hedgehog highway (well, maybe a hedgehog cul-de-sac at the moment, but hopefully others can join in to make a Long Ashton hedgehog highway). You could share this idea with others in the village, e.g. if you have a street WhatsApp or Signal group that would be a good place to start, or just chat to your neighbours.
Building a hedgehog highway is somewhat easier than a human highway as it mainly involves putting small holes in fences. The holes should be about the size of a CD case and at ground level (hedgehogs aren’t great jumpers). The idea is that by giving hedgehogs a chance to get through fences and walls we can increase the area they have to forage for food, search for shelter and mates. For more details please see the hedgehog street website https://www.hedgehogstreet.org/help-hedgehogs/link-your-garden/ where there is also loads of information about helping out hedgehogs in other ways.
We have a fence between our front and back gardens which I put a hedgehog hole in a couple of years ago. You never know when you do something like this whether or not it is going to be used but, within a few weeks, it was in regular use by hedgehogs. Having been given a trail camera for Christmas I was excited to see the evidence. They are rumoured to eat slugs. I can’t say I’ve seen much sign of this, but they are still a very welcome visitor to the garden.
One possible issue can be that pets (mainly cats) might use the holes. One thing that can be done is to add a tunnel to the hole to deter them. Hedgehogs apparently are quite happy to use tunnels. I did try building a makeshift tunnel, and hedgehogs are quite happy to use it, but also cats - who had got used to using the hole as a shortcut - didn’t seem to take long to accept the indignity of having to squeeze through a tunnel either. The next level of defence would be to put a bend in the tunnel, but I was concerned this might deter hedgehogs as well as cats. We have seen cats eating hedgehog food we’ve left out, so I'm planning to experiment with tunnels with bends in so the hedgehogs get the food rather than the cats.
Where there is height difference at a boundary fence a ramp can be put in, see Oxfordshire village of Kirtlington for some nice examples https://www.hedgehogstreet.org/kirtlington/.
If you do see hedgehogs around the village, or if you do put in your own hedgehog holes it would be great to see more additions to the map https://bighedgehogmap.org/. As of mid February 2022 there’s only been one recorded sighting south of Weston Road and most seem to be at the west of the village, so it would be interesting to hear of any sightings in other areas.
Big Hedgehog Map (bighedgehogmap.org) as of 18/02/2022
I also have three spare hedgehog highway signs so, if you have a hedgehog hole and want to add a sign, get in touch. It would actually just be good to hear of anyone else who has put in hedgehog holes, maybe if we get a few close together we can get a long-distance Long Ashton hedgehog highway built! Contact The LANCE Trust, or email me direct at email@example.com.