Highway patrol

Published August 3, 2022

Close up of a hedgehog next to a fence

I was pretty ignorant about the state of the UK’s wildlife until the big lockdown meant concentrating on these four walls plus the back garden. You’ll know I concentrated my efforts on turning into a vegetable gardener, but alongside that is a growing understanding of the other creatures and insects that use our little pieces of greenery to survive.

Hedgehog populations have been falling for a long time, and there’s always talk about what you can do to help. I went with the bowl of hedgehog food and a saucer of water each night to keep our prickly friends going, and noticed there were already little hedgehog-sized holes in the fence to let them come and go as they pleased. In fact, one evening, I followed a hedgehog at a safe distance around the garden and it magically disappeared in what seemed to me to be a dead end, so I’m confident they’ve got the fence network sorted.

I read this news piece with interest, that Newbury Town Council requested new housing developments take into account those so-called hedgehog highways when putting up new builds, and the county council refused the request. Their reasoning was it would be an ‘over burdening condition’ on planning, but it seems like such a small request? Put a tiny hole in the bottom of your fences. Job done.

Of course it’s the kind of thing that society at large can do by themselves - if you buy one of the new houses, put a hole in the fence as one of your moving in jobs - but isn’t that just another example of something small a council or government could do but won’t and instead the burden falls on individuals to try and make a difference?

Pretty frustrating for everyone concerned, I think. But if that’s how it is to be, the next thing I want to tackle from the ‘how to help’ list is a wild area - a benefit for hedgehogs, bees and butterflies, and exactly zero effort to just let a section of garden go its own way. Probably too much effort for the council, though, eh?

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