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The Kirtlington Hedgehog Street

2nd November 2021
By Grace Johnson

Last week I had the pleasure of visiting the village of Kirtlington in Oxfordshire, home to one of the most impressive Hedgehog Streets in the UK. The Kirtlington Hedgehog Street was set up in 2017 by the Kirtlington Wildlife and Conservation Society (KWACS), and since then has grown into a village-wide conservation and engagement project.

Hedgehog highways are small gaps in garden boundaries to allow hedgehog access. Kirtlington’s network of highways connects over 60 gardens, including the village pub, school and church. Overall this has opened up around 16 acres of garden and grassland for hedgehogs.

Kirtlington’s Hedgehog Street has also captured the imagination of many outside the village. Their engagement accolades include a viral video of a hedgehog ramp (below), a piece in the Guardian and features on local BBC News and The One Show!

Video by the Kirtlington Wildlife and Conservation Society (KWACS)

The tour

After a rainy start (and pub lunch), BHPS spokesperson Hugh Warwick and I embarked on a tour of the village. Our outing was led by KWACS chairman Chris Powles along with committee member Jack Cowley. It was fantastic to see the array of hedgehog highways on display, and how various difficulties have been overcome. One such challenge has been ground level changes between gardens. Some neighbouring gardens have a height difference of a few feet. This is where the concept of the famous hedgehog ramp was born.

Checking out the famous hedgehog ramp. Photo by Hugh Warwick.
Another example of level changes between gardens, this time resolved by a small staircase, which just like the ramp has been frequented by Kirtlington’s hedgehog population. Photo by Hugh Warwick.

“Engaging families with pre teenage children has worked really well.  When they join, we encourage them to put a stick on their new hedgehog hole (as seen above).  If that is regularly coming down, we build on their excitement by first lending them a hedgehog footprint tunnel and then, if the that shows a hedgehog is visiting, we escalate to finally lending them a camera trap.”

Chris Powles, KWACS chairman

Highways in the village

As a historical village, it’s been important to ensure that hedgehog highways have not affected the village’s historical integrity. In the case of the village church, the group used an old notice board as a highway support, as shown below.

Photo by Hugh Warwick.

Community engagement

KWACS undertake various engagement activities to maximise their impact for hedgehogs as well as other wildlife species.

  • Nature walks in the village.
  • Online hedgehog talks.
  • A regular feature in the village’s newsletter.

“We also target community buildings – the school, the pub, the Church and the shop – to create public engagement. Finally, where the holes are in a prominent position, make them interesting.  In walls, we have made some of their entrances into an attractive Stonehenge type arch and in fences we are going to trial holes with a cut out shape of a hedgehog.”

Conservation impact

“Kirtlington Hedgehog Street started by us making only one link between a couple of gardens and it then just took off with this person and then that person all asking to be included.  Hence my advice to anyone interested in the idea is to make and start, be enthusiastic and the idea should sell itself and be a success!”

It was fantastic to visit Kirtlington and see the brilliant work that KWACS has been doing. The village is a great example of how community effort can make a difference. Hedgehog highways do help our prickly friends by combatting the issue of habitat fragmentation, but they need to extend out far and wide, as no one garden is big enough!

Find out more and get involved

You can find more info and resources for setting up your own Hedgehog Street HERE.

See what other Hedgehog Champions are getting up to HERE.

Log your own hedgehog highway on the BIG Hedgehog Map HERE.