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Hedgehog Street People: Charlotte from Surrey

26th September 2022

‘Elmbridge Hedgehog Conservation Group’ was set up on social media by local resident and hedgehog-lover Charlotte. With the group, she aimed to encourage people in her local area to share tips on making the borough hedgehog friendly. This included hedgehog highway advice, and encouraging people to report hedgehog sightings on the Big Hedgehog Map.

Charlotte has also encouraged group members to get involved in other citizen science projects, including PTES’ Living with Mammals survey. We chatted to Charlotte about the group, her motivation and her passion for all things hedgehog…

What motivated you to set up the Elmbridge Hedgehog Conservation Group?

A few years ago I found out about Hedgehog Street and about the simple ways that we can make our gardens hedgehog-friendly. I wanted to sign up as a Hedgehog Champion but I didn’t think that I could do much to help, since no-one had seen a hedgehog in my village for years, and there were no sightings logged here on the BIG Hedgehog Map.

Then in August 2021 our security camera captured a clip of a hedgehog in our garden! This made me realise that we did still have some hedgehogs in our village. I signed up as a Hedgehog Champion and started thinking about how to get others involved. I decided to set up an online group because this would allow me to regularly post information and to reach more people than just my closest neighbours. Soon I had a Facebook group up and running, and later an Instagram account and a website.

Charlotte’s wildlife friendly garden and hedgehog house

What have been the group’s achievements? What are you most proud of?

So far we have mainly been focussing on spreading the word about how people can help hedgehogs. As well as this, encouraging people to log their hedgehog sightings on the BIG Hedgehog Map. This helps us understand more about the distribution and density of hedgehog populations in our borough.

One of our biggest achievements has been collaborating with Elmbridge Borough Council and local residents’ groups to draw up a plan for improving Hurst Park in Molesey as a habitat for hedgehogs. Some parts of the plan have already been put into action, such as leaving a strip of grass around the edge of the park unmown to provide foraging areas and a corridor for wildlife. To complement the work done in Hurst Park, I also wrote an article for the Hurst Park Residents’ Association newsletter, encouraging the nearby residents to make their gardens hedgehog friendly.

As we move forward, I am hoping to:

  • Use survey tunnels to find out if hedgehogs are present in parts of our borough where they haven’t been recorded yet.
  • Give talks to members of the public and school groups.
  • Encourage more housing development companies to install Hedgehog Highways in their new developments.

Find out more about hedgehogs and development.

Have there been more hedgehog sightings since you started?

Yes, and I actually saw a hedgehog in real life for the first time! I even got to rescue an injured hedgehog and take it to Wildlife Aid, our local wildlife hospital.

As well as the sightings that I have logged, sightings logged by others in the area have popped up on the BIG Hedgehog Map. Plus people in my village have reported seeing a hedgehog in their garden for the first time in many years.

Why do you love hedgehogs?

As well as being very cute, they are also quite unique. Not only are they Britain’s only spiny mammal, but they differ from many of our wild species in that they don’t have a flight response. They are also one of only a few of our native species that truly hibernate. Hedgehogs are part of our popular culture and have even been voted ‘Britain’s favourite mammal’. Many people might not realise that hedgehogs evolved so long ago that they were around before mammoths! I love the idea of them snuffling around our gardens and green spaces after dark.

Topping up the feeding station

What advice would you give someone wanting to set up a similar local group?

If someone wants to set up a similar group, I would say go for it! It is incredibly rewarding, and there are plenty of helpful resources on the Hedgehog Street website to get you started. The wonderful thing about hedgehogs is that you don’t need to be a professional wildlife conservationist to have a real positive impact. There are easy ways for everyone to help!

I have found that one of the most effective ways to let people know about your group is to post in local residents’ groups and local wildlife groups on Facebook. You can also put Top Tips leaflets through your neighbours’ letterboxes to reach people who aren’t on social media. Encouraging people to log their hedgehog sightings on the BIG Hedgehog Map is a good way to monitor hedgehog distribution in your area. Contact local companies in charge of new housing developments and ask them to install Hedgehog Highways. This is a great way to connect lots of gardens at once.

Lots of people want to help hedgehogs, they just don’t know how, so it is important to spread the word about the things that we can all do to help this beloved but vulnerable species.

Charlotte delivering Top Tips leaflets to neighbours