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Hedgehog Street People: Michel from Barnes

25th July 2022

If anyone can claim they have worked hard for hedgehogs, it’s Michel Birkenwald. He and his team have installed over 1,000 hedgehog holes in and around Barnes in South West London, creating the Barnes Hedgehog Superhighway.

Since setting up Barnes Hedgehogs in 2016, Michel has been inspiring residents around South West London to help their local thriving hedgehog population. He offers a hole cutting service, where he will come and make a resident’s garden hedgehog accessible by cutting a hole in a fence, gate or a wall. He also provides plaques to put above the holes which help to support the cost of his tools.

Some of the many holes

Barnes is somewhat of a hedgehog hotspot in London, and a recent study funded by PTES found that the population is healthier than previously thought, though still struggling. The researcher, Kate Scott-Gatty, found that local gardens act as an important refuge from badgers. Badgers are hedgehogs’ main predators, and hedgehogs will actively avoid areas where badgers live. They also both compete for the same food (find out more about badgers and hedgehogs here). This is why it’s important for there to be areas where hedgehogs can live, eat and breed away from badgers.

The Barnes Hedgehog Superhighway is incredibly important for London’s hedgehogs. They can travel further to find food, nests and mating opportunities. People like Michel are instrumental in helping Britain’s hedgehogs to recover. Although no longer based in Barnes, Michel remains nearby and engaged with the project to ensure his hedgehog legacy lives on.

Michel with former Hedgehog Officer Emily

Michel also focuses his energy campaigning against artificial grass. These large plastic sheets have no wildlife benefit and a large carbon footprint. Fake lawn means that animals such as hedgehogs will have no insect prey to eat, contributing to their decline. A real lawn provides multiple benefits to wildlife, and if you can let it grow wild – even better!

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