Sometimes, in order to do your bit to make a difference in the world, you need to get creative. That is exactly what Victoria Harwood did and we are delighted to name her as our Hedgehog Hero for February 2021! Victoria (AKA the ‘Hedgehog Lady’), wrote and illustrated the children’s book Bush-Hog Tails and donates all the profits to wildlife charities. We talked to her about her creative process and what actually goes into bringing a children’s book to life!

How did you first become interested in hedgehogs?

I’ve always been a huge animal lover but my real interest in hedgehogs came with writing my first book. I was lucky enough to meet quite a few hedgehogs and learn all about them. It wasn’t long before I found out about their worrying decline and I sought to raise as much awareness about them as I possibly could.

What inspired Bush-Hog Tails?

I had always dreamed of writing a book, ever since primary school. When my boys had grown up I decided to pursue my dream and combine my love for animals, storytelling and drawing into the biggest hobby I’ve ever had! I emailed The Snowman illustrator, Raymond Briggs, who kindly offered a little advice about illustrating books. With the help and support of my amazing family, I was able to make my dream of writing and illustrating a children’s book a reality! I wanted to help as many animals as I could whilst also putting a smile on people’s faces. We have a little wooden hedgehog (who is quite old now) that we named Bushy, long before Bush-Hog Tails was devised. I kept making up mini stories about him and one day the idea of Bush-Hog Tails just came to me.

Have you always been interested in writing/illustration?

I’ve always loved writing and drawing. I wrote my first story about a witch when I was 7 and my teacher was so impressed that I ended up winning an award for my class! When I had my children I’d write short stories for them and draw their favourite characters from Mr Men, Pokemon and Disney. I also painted their favourite characters on their bedroom walls. 

How long did it take you to complete the book?

My first book took me two years because it was something quite new. Since then I have written another two books in the Bush-Hog series, each of which took me about a year. My fiancé, Simon, scans all of my illustrations, removes any unwanted smudges (as I use charcoal to draw) and then converts the stories to PDF so they can be sent to the printers. Part of my process is also researching wildlife rescue centres that we can support and donate to. All the profits of my work goes to wildlife charities.

What advice would you give those looking to write a children’s book?

Be patient with yourself! If you are determined enough then you can do it. When I write, I will often make quite a few changes before I’m happy with the final manuscript. I don’t like repeating words so I try to think of different ways that I can describe something. I also try to add humour as well as facts to make the stories fun and educational. You should always work somewhere where you aren’t likely to be distracted as disruptions can cause you to lose your flow and impact your concentration levels. Most importantly- don’t give up! If it’s something that you really want to do it might take a few attempts but it can be done. 

What charities do you donate the profits to?

So far we have helped large animal charities, as well as smaller independent establishments, including my personal favourites: Lincolnshire Wildlife Park and Warwickshire Wildlife Sanctuary. We have also donated copies of my book to an English teaching school in Kuwait, Rainbows Hospice and several establishments that look after poorly children. We even donated some copies to Blackpool Zoo to help with their conservation funds!

How does it feel being known as the ‘hedgehog lady’?

It’s pretty cool! It makes me smile quite a lot!

Have you got any ideas for any future works?

Oh yes! I have a huge imagination and I’m always thinking of new things to write about. I am actually working on another book which isn’t hedgehog related. It still needs a bit of work but once it has been completed and processed into book format, all profits will be donated to wildlife charities, just like my previous books. 

What advice would you give those looking to help hedgehogs?

Research as much as you can so that you can provide the correct care. Remember that hedgehogs can’t drink milk- they are lactose intolerant so a fresh bowl of water and some Spike’s food in a shallow dish is the best thing you can provide for them. They can also eat meaty cat food but it’s worth noting that if you leave out cat food you might also attract cats! You can also create a hedgehog highway where you make a hedgehog sized hole in your fence or gate, which allows the hedgehogs to wander freely. Just make sure you check with your neighbours before cutting any holes!

 

Victoria Harwood has raised almost £3,000 for wildlife charities through her work, despite also working full-time in a specialised Dementia unit. She gave up chocolate for a whole month last year to raise money for Lincolnshire Wildlife Park and despite the pandemic, she is still doing everything she can to make a difference. Thank you Victoria, we salute you! 

At Spike’s we are constantly amazed at the great lengths our followers will go to in order to make a difference. Caring for hedgehogs is no mean feat and takes time, energy and patience. Luckily there’s people like Ann and Chris in the world and we are happy to name them our Hedgehog Heroes for January! 

We sat talked to the pair to find out more about how their journey began and what a typical day looks like running Poppy’s Crêche.

Hi Ann & Chris! Tell us first, how did you both become interested in hedgehogs?

Ann: I first fell in love with hedgehogs when my daughter came across some abandoned babies. I wanted to do everything I could to help and loved the idea of setting up a rescue. I did lots of research and gained qualifications so that I knew exactly how to care for hedgehogs and how to administer medication to the poorly ones. Hedgehogs can be tricky to look after and I needed to become a complete expert before setting out on my journey with Poppy’s Creche. 

What do you think is the best thing about hedgehogs?

Ann: Hedgehogs are demure and beautiful creatures and are a big part of our English heritage. They don’t ask for much from us humans and know how to take care of themselves. All they need from us is to protect the remaining wilderness so they can roam safely. 

What can we do to promote hedgehog welfare?

Ann: Start small, with your back garden! Make sure you leave a wild patch and provide a hedgehog highway if you can. It’s also worth leaving out food and water in case a passing hedgehog needs a bit of sustenance. Most importantly, spread the word about what you’re doing and try to get friends and family on board!

How did you first get involved with Poppy’s Creche?

Ann & Chris: We founded the charity as we wanted to do our bit to help. We have been rescuing and rehabilitating hundreds of hedgehogs and hoglets over the years, then releasing them back into the Suffolk wilds. 

Ann: I’ve become a specialist in raising hoglets, which isn’t easy when you have to feed them every two hours 24/7!

What does a typical day look like for you both?

Ann & Chris: Our day starts at 9am. We begin by cleaning out every in-patient’s home and supply meds to those hogs that need them. We also receive new patients throughout the day, all the while answering and returning any calls we might receive. We do a final check of all the hedgehogs before bedtime, ensuring they are all safe and sound. The patients that are in incubators often need a special bit of attention.

Ann: Hoglet season is our busiest time so I often have to take cat naps throughout the day as I’m up all night- strong coffee and the odd gin help with this. When we aren’t in lockdown, we have an amazing team of volunteers: Liz, David, Tori, Mandy, Patti, Shirley, Annette and student Deanna. 

Do you do any hedgehog fundraising?

Ann & Chris: Poppy’s Creche is entirely self-funded and is named after a very special albino hedgehog. We have some lovely donors who help out via our Amazon wishlist page and we also receive donations from Golden Giving. We are lucky to have been supported over the years by some wonderful wildlife friendly companies and small businesses that care about hedgehogs. You can also donate to our easyfundraising page here or purchase items under Amazon smile- simply select Poppy’s creche as your chosen charity and we’ll automatically receive a donation!  

Do you have any other plans for hedgehog welfare on the horizon?

Ann & Chris: We want to continue to provide the best possible care for hedgehogs that find their way to our rescue. We know how important it is to research and listen to the experts on how to care for hedgehogs properly so we will no doubt keep up to date on any new developments. Most of all, we aim to continue to spread the word on how people in the UK can do their bit for these national treasures.

What does the future look like for hedgehogs?

Ann: I do have concerns about the future of hedgehogs and I can’t stress enough how important it is for everyone to do their bit. If we can all champion hedgehog welfare and create a safe place for them in our gardens, they might have a fighting chance and reduce the need for them to arrive at the rescue. Ultimately, my wish is for my own grandchildren to enjoy seeing hedgehogs years from now! 

Hedgehog hero Catherine Jones

Not all heroes wear capes; some are just normal people, doing their bit to give the nation’s hoggies a helping hand. There are many people in the Spike’s community that go above and beyond to keep hedgehogs safe and they certainly deserve a bit of recognition for all of their hard work. We’re delighted to announce that Catherine Jones, of Rugby, has been named our Hedgehog Hero for December. Read on to find out all about her journey as a hedgehog foster carer. 

How did you first become interested in hedgehogs?

Last summer, I noticed my (very sweet and friendly) Labradoodle, Daisy, sniffing at something in the grass. As I got closer, I realised it was a hedgehog! I hadn’t seen one before and quickly googled what I should do. I left out some dog biscuits and some wet food (it was all we had) and left the hog alone. Our hedgehog kept returning and it was so exciting for me and my daughter, Violet. I started researching hedgehogs, how they live and what we can do to help them- it was at this time I realised just how vulnerable they are and I felt that I had to do something more to help rather than just feeding our new spiky friend. 

What do you think is the best thing about hedgehogs?

I LOVE their fluffy underskirts!  When you think of a hedgehog, you think of a prickly creature but they have this adorable fluff on the underside of their body. When you have the honour of seeing them up close, you realise just how beautiful and unique they are. 

What can we all do to promote hedgehog welfare?

There are so many things you can do! You can promote hedgehog highways between gardens, encourage people to leave out food and water and educate others on how vulnerable hedgehogs really are. Can you imagine if hedgehogs became extinct? How awful to think that they might and that we could have done more to save them. I think education and engagement are the most helpful things we can do, and I try to do what I can via Social Media.

How did you start your journey as a hedgehog foster carer?

I contacted Warwickshire Hedgehog Rescue online originally to see if we could act as an enclosed garden for hedgehogs following soft release. I was put in touch with a lovely lady called Lynda who runs the rescue where I live (in Rugby) and she suggested I become a foster carer instead. We have a couple of sheds in our garden and some spare guinea pig cages – Lynda came to have a look round and approved us as foster carers, and away we went!

What does a typical day look like for a foster carer?

First thing in the morning, I take a look in the shed (affectionately nicknamed ‘Hedgehog Towers’) to check everything is okay, i.e. the hogs have enough food and water. They are usually asleep at this time so I leave them in peace. At 18:00, I go in and clean out the cages, change the newspaper (that lines the cages), check their bedding isn’t too dirty and wash out their food and water bowls. I then gently and quietly lift them from their nests and weigh them to make sure that they are gaining weight at a steady rate (weight loss can be indicative of something sinister). This is when I get a little glimpse of their little wet noses- my favourite part! Sometimes my partner, Phil, helps me out- he’s the one taking the photos and videos for my Instagram, Cookies House Hedgehog Foster Care.

Do you do any fundraising to raise money for hedgehogs?

Not yet, but I run an online cross-stitch shop and am planning to design some hedgehog patterns to sell and donate 100% of the profits to our precious hedgehogs, so watch this space!

Do you have any other plans for hedgehog welfare on the horizon?

I’d love to get involved with educating and engaging others about hedgehogs and what we can all do to help them- maybe at schools. I try and do my bit by encouraging friends and family to support our local hedgehogs, but I need a bigger audience!

What do you think the future looks like for hedgehogs?

Quite frankly, it looks very bleak if we continue to destroy their habitats by building over them, trimming back the hedgerows and by continuing to pump their food (slugs, snails) full of poison. We also all need to be a lot more careful when driving, as hedgehogs are known for crossing busy roads. When so much in our lives is out of control, people need to realise how much of a difference they can make to the future of hedgehogs with small actions like leaving a small dish of water in their garden. Hedgehogs have a very tricky time of it all, but we can make a difference. There are so many people out there who dedicate their time to the protection of these animals, I hope our actions are not in vain.

 

Congratulations Catherine on being named our second Hedgehog Hero on behalf of the entire team here at Spike’s! If you’d like to find out more about Catherine’s journey and what it takes to be a hedgehog foster carer, you can follow her on Instagram- https://www.instagram.com/cookieshousehedgehogfostercare/ 

Here at Spike’s, we love learning more about hedgehogs and what they get up to. When it comes to hedgehog hibernation, there are a few things you might not know. Read on for the truth about hedgehog hibernation, so you know what to expect from the cute neighbourhood critters this winter.

Why do hedgehogs hibernate?

During spring and summer, hedgehogs survive on a diet of a range of insects, which are usually abundant when the weather is warm. When the colder months come around, it becomes harder and harder for hedgehogs to find food, so many of them hibernate to preserve energy until sustenance is more readily available. They can sleep for months at a time, as long as they have sufficient fat stores.

What happens when a hedgehog hibernates?

You might think the hoggies are just having a nice sleep, but internally, there is a lot more going on. When a hedgehog hibernates, they enter a state or dormancy or torpor and their body temperature drops to match their surroundings. This slows their bodily functions down whilst preserving energy.

When do hedgehogs hibernate?

Hibernation season is typically regarded to be the period of time between November and March. However, this is highly dependent on weather conditions and the individual hedgehog, so it’s important not to assume that all hedgehogs are fast asleep by November. If the weather is mild, hedgehogs tend to stay awake for longer so it’s still worth leaving out food and water for them.

Do all hedgehogs hibernate?

Simply, no. Not all hedgehogs hibernate. If a hedgehog is particularly well fed, it doesn’t need to preserve energy to survive the winter. Obviously, hedgehogs are wild animals and each individual hedgehog has a different set of circumstances; some don’t hibernate at all, some sleep for a couple of weeks and some sleep for months. This is also dependent on the weather as sudden drops or increases in temperature may rouse a hibernating hedgehog.

Should I still leave food out for hedgehogs during hibernation season?

As we’ve already discovered, not all hedgehogs hibernate and those that don’t may have become accustomed to tasty Spike’s hedgehog food! Even the ones that do hibernate may wake up from time to time so it’s crucial that they have readily available food on hand.

What should I do if a hedgehog is sleeping in an inconvenient place?

You shouldn’t ever try to move or rouse a sleeping hedgehog, even if the place they’ve built their nest in is inconvenient for you. If the hedgehog has built their nest in an unsafe place then call the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) and they will give you guidance on what to do next.

What should I do if I wake a sleeping hedgehog?

If you happen to stumble upon a hibernating hedgehog this winter and accidentally rouse them from their slumber, it’s important to cover them back up with dry leaves and leave some food and water for them. Hedgehogs depend on fat stores to survive the winter so if they wake up, it’s important to have easily available nourishment to fuel them in case they decide to find another place to hibernate. Building a nest is hard work after all!

How do I encourage hedgehogs to hibernate in my garden?

Hedgehogs like to hibernate snuggled up under log piles or under piles of dry leaves. You can make your garden more hibernation friendly by letting things get a tad on the messy side. Letting your garden get a bit wild will help make conditions ideal for all different kinds of wildlife, not just hedgehogs. Remember though, if you’re trying to encourage more hedgehog visitors, always be careful if you do decide to do a bit of gardening. You never know who might be tucked up in the greenery!

Here at Spike’s, hedgehogs are very close to our hearts. We love speaking to our community and finding out the things they’re doing to promote hedgehog welfare, going out of their way to help each little hog they come across. They truly are our hedgehog heroes! 

We sat down with Justine Dixon, and her 84-year-old mother Fay, to find out more about their efforts and their love of hedgehogs. Together they help fundraise for local rescue centre, Pricklington Palace, by creating useful packs that include: helpful guides on hedgehog care, hedgehog food and adorable knitted hedgehogs (knitted by Fay herself!).

When did your love of hedgehogs begin?

Justine: I’ve loved hedgehogs for as long as I can remember. When I was a child there were so many more about than there are today and I always enjoyed seeing them! In the last five years, they’ve needed a lot of help from us, so I’ve become heavily involved in fundraising for local rescue centres. 

What is your favourite thing about hedgehogs?

Justine & Fay: We really love the way hedgehogs snuffle around the garden, foraging for food. They’re the cutest little animals, with so many interesting quirks. 

How did you get the idea to start knitting hedgehogs?

Fay: I’ve always knitted for our local church and so I offered to knit some hedgehogs to help with the fundraising efforts. My daughter Googled some hedgehog patterns and the rest is history! People seem to really like them and I’m very pleased about that.

What areas of hedgehog care do you focus on in your useful guides?

Justine: All our guidance is based on the information provided by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society and our local rescue centre. The information includes: what you should and shouldn’t feed a hedgehog, how to make them a feeding station, how to make your garden hedgehog friendly, and more. 

How should the public approach a hedgehog?

Justine & Fay: It’s important to keep in mind that hedgehogs are wild animals and need to be respected as such. Even though we have a lot of experience dealing with hedgehogs, we don’t handle them unless it’s absolutely necessary. Make sure you respect a hedgehog’s boundaries as they aren’t used to humans. 

How did you come into contact with Pricklington Palace?

Justine: Pricklington Palace opened its doors roughly four years ago near Howden (East Yorkshire). There previously wasn’t a rescue centre in the area so both my mother and I were really pleased about this. It’s entirely funded by donations so we were determined to do our part to help out. I personally run Hook Gardening Club, so I used this platform to collect donations from the local community. Pricklington Palace is run by a lovely lady called Gill Dixon (no relation!) and we invited Gill to our club to give a talk on hedgehog welfare. We have been donating ever since and have developed a strong working relationship over the years. 

What advice would you give to those that wish to promote hedgehog welfare?

Fay & Justine: It’s important not to over-tidy your garden! Hedgehogs love overgrown shrubs and bushes as it provides them a safe place to hide from predators or to nest. Make sure you avoid all pesticides (as these can kill hedgehogs) and make an effort to regularly provide fresh food and water. You can also create a hedgehog highway in the gaps of your fences to provide a route for hedgehogs to get in and out of your garden.

What steps can the general public make to promote hedgehog welfare?

Fay & Justine: If you see a hedgehog out and about during the day this is not a good sign and the hedgehog probably needs help. Ring your local rescue centre or vet to ask for advice on what to do next.

In your opinion what does the future look like for hedgehogs? 

Justine: Sadly, hedgehogs have become endangered due to loss of habitat and food over the years. That is exactly why it’s so important to protect the hedgehogs we have left in the UK and do our bit to promote their welfare! We can all make a difference in a small way while they’re still snuffling around our gardens.

What do you like about Spike’s as a brand?

Justine & Fay: We like Spike’s as it’s high in quality and hedgehogs seem to love it. Cats don’t seem to be interested in eating it so hedgehogs don’t need to worry about battling it out for their dinner!

Want to be featured in our Hedgehog Heroes series? Connect with us on social media and tell us your hedgehog stories!