As a young child, I owned a collection of Beatrix Potter books. I had them all neatly lined up on my bookshelf, with their smart, iconic white covers and intricately drawn animal characters.
I would pore over the tales of naughty Peter Rabbit and the extremely tidy Mrs Tittlemouse, however my favourite character of all, and I think the most well-drawn, was Mrs Tiggy-Winkle – the hedgehog.
Hedgehogs seem to have a special place in Brits’ hearts but, sadly, like so much of our wildlife, their numbers have recently been in sharp decline.
Numerous reasons are put forward for this, even the much-maligned Badger has been castigated as a serial hedgehog muncher, but the real reason is of course – us.
When I was growing up, in Enfield, North London, the hedgehog was a very common sight and so too were the sad prickly corpses that we would often encounter, squashed on the roads, as we walked to school.
Now, this animal has disappeared from most of these town/city areas and the cause certainly isn’t down to badgers!
No, man is to blame.
We have concreted over our front gardens, pulled up our traditional lawns and replaced them with decking/gravel and cut back hedging.
Even worse has been another modern-day gardening ‘innovation’ - fake grass.
This ghastly plastic green stuff has been rolled out in many gardens and offers nothing for our declining bird species, such as the once-common starling nor the bumbling hedgehog.
Thankfully, here in Preston at least, the little hedgehog seems to be holding his own.
On a recent evening dog walk down one particular road that still has many of its traditionally lawned front gardens, three bungalows each had a single large, and very fat, hedgehog, out front, snuffling around for worms and slugs.
However, with winter coming up fast, and the potential dangers of bonfire night on the horizon, there will always be a need for rescue services.
Thankfully, we have a wonderful group here in the Bay that do such sterling work for our prickly friends.
For hints, tips and advice, search Facebook for ELM Wildlife Hedgehog Rescue & Rehabilitatio