BUILDING MOMENTUM TO HELP HEDGEHOGS Hugh Warwick, recently named Minister for Hedgerows and Verges as part of the People’s Manifesto for Wildlife, talks about gaining public support to make new-builds hedgehog-friendly
One of the biggest problems hedgehogs face is the fragmen- tation of their habitat – as we break up all that remains into small pock- ets, we have found that hedgehog populations slip into a state we would describe as ‘unviable’. A viable popu- lation of hedgehogs needs at least 90ha of unfragmented land, which is, of course, hard to come by.
And this is why we at the British Hedgehog Preservation Society and the People’s Trust for Endangered Species launched the Hedgehog Street campaign. Simple idea: get people to make holes in their fences, allowing hedgehogs access to a much larger area. And it has proved to be a great success, with more than 55,000 households now signed up and actively making a difference.
But retrofitting – making holes in existing fences – can be hard work. Surely we should just build fences in such a way that hedgehogs could move from garden to garden? Coupling this with the repeated demands from central government that we need to build an ever-increasing number of new homes presents us with a potential easy win.
Currently there is no obligation on new-build to include hedgehog highways. I decided to ask Kit Malthouse, Minister for Housing and Planning, that he work into planning law the requirement for hedgehog holes to be included in the fences of new developments.
So I wrote up a petition – and change.org went to work. I hoped to get 10,000 names. All of a sudden we were nearing 100,000! And then 250,000. The next goal I had in mind was a third of a million – which we reached in about five weeks. What can we do with this weight of engagement? The first step is a meeting with Kit Malthouse – and then, equipped, hopefully, with his backing, an approach to the companies concerned, from developers to fence manufacturers,
Photographs by Henry Johnson, Hedgehog Champion / Hedgehog Street selling them the idea that they can do an ecological good with very little effort.
I spoke to a developer, who estimated it would add 50p to the price of a house if he was required to include one hedgehog-friendly concrete gravel board (the bit beneath the fence that keeps it off the ground) in a new build.
It will give some developers the chance to claim ‘green points’ in an otherwise destructive development – but I will campaign against greenwash now, as I have done before. It is better that something good should come out of the rash of housing that will spread.
And as the Minister for Hedgerows and Verges I shall have my first success story – undoing some of the fragmentation that has so blighted our land of great potential. www.hedgehogstreet.org tinyurl.com/ hedgehog-highway-petition
HEALTH RIVER PROJECT BOOSTS WELLBEING
A project offering vulnerable adults and teenagers the chance to engage with Nature along the banks of the Bristol Frome River has shown increased positive wellbeing and awareness of pollution. Participants in the six-week programme, River Remedies: Improving Wellbeing through Nature, looked at river samples, tested for phosphates and nitrates, and did litter picking. Wellbeing scores and pollution awareness levels were recorded before and after the sessions. The programme, which ended in May 2018, was run by environmental consultancy Eunomia with support from South Gloucestershire Council and Bristol Avon Rivers Trust. Project director David Baxter said: “Rivers Trusts exist in every part of England. I would encourage them to consider the learning we developed in this programme to develop their own offerings.”
DOCTORS PRESCRIBE NATURE TO PATIENTS
Following a successful trial, doctors in Shetland can now prescribe activi- ties like birdwatching and walking to patients to improve health. Patients are given a leaflet and calendar of activities put together by RSPB Scotland. This is thought to be the first scheme of its kind in the UK. tinyurl.com/ nature-prescriptions-shetland
COMPASSION WORKS Leaders of the Compassionate Communities programme in Frome (see Compassion is the Best Medicine, Issue 307), have published the impact of their work in a new article in the British Journal of General Practice. According to the article, the programme, which aims to tackle the connection between loneliness and ill health, has helped cut emergency hospital admissions in its area by 14%. The programme works by bringing together care providers, volunteers from health centres, local charities and other groups to provide support to people with poor health. tinyurl.com/hospital-admissions-cut
Resurgence & Ecologist