Back in September 2022, we launched our Hedgehog Highway project, having secured funding from two generous donors; the Charity of William Hobbayne, and The Freshwater Foundation. Together they donated £3,500, and in return wanted EWG to focus our efforts on helping Hanwell Hedgehogs especially, which was already a hotspot, and bring the wider community together in helping Ealing Hedgehogs generally.
Against that background, the project team set out to focus on four main strands of work.
- Survey Hedgehog activity in Ealing parks and green spaces in and around Hanwell.
- Connect gardens and improve wildlife corridors, as Hedgehogs need to visit 20-30 gardens a night to get enough food, so safe passage through fences is essential.
- Create suitable habitats for Hedgehogs in areas where they are and could be, thus creating “hibernacula” for Hedgehogs to retreat to, over winter and have hoglets.
- Educate Ealing residents about how to be Hedgehog friendly, and maintain safe allotments for visiting Hedgehogs.
So how much have we achieved? Judge for yourselves.
A baseline snapshot survey of Hedgehogs
In October/November 2022, with guidance and 60 trail cameras from the Zoological Society of London, we surveyed Brent Lodge, Elthorn and Pitshanger Parks plus three allotment sites; Ascott in South Ealing, Brentham in Pitshanger and Framfield in Hanwell.
The cameras recorded footage over 2 weeks with the park footage reviewed by the ZSL team and allotment footage by our volunteer team which took approximately 90 hours. One of our very dedicated volunteer team, undertook a local garden survey in the Pitshanger area just before Hedgehogs went into hibernation the provided us with detailed findings.
As ever with mother nature, the results were slightly surprising. Only Ascott allotments and the Pitshanger back garden survey recorded prolific Hedgehog activity. This was excellent news because Ascott hadn’t recorded visits from Hedgehogs in over 20 years. Over the large site, six cameras out of ten recorded regular visitors in the two weeks.
Whilst there are regular anecdotal sightings of Hedgehogs in the three parks on our EWG Facebook page every year, back gardens seem to be increasingly important in connecting up our isolated park populations. Five out of nine cameras picked up visiting Hedgehogs in the more “rural” Brentham Estate, with its many “twittens” (alleyways behind houses and man-made wildlife corridors).
Hedgehog Highway hole makers
With funding and advice from other local wildlife championing organisations, like Wild Chiswick, our DIY team purchased the necessary equipment to create professional, tidy holes in fences and walls across our main target area which is affectionately known as Poet’s Corner and the surrounding area.
A small army of volunteers was deployed to leaflet residents, knock on doors, create posters, make calls and send emails enabling dedicated DIY drillers to turn up, assess whether a hole or two were needed and create them.
Many residents also benefitted from a little green plaque, which indicated to future buyers not to block up the hole in the fence.
By the end of May 2023, the DIY team of just three have drilled over 80 holes creating a network of highways between larger green spaces, the existing green corridors and back gardens in Hanwell.
Helpful habitat improvements and hibernacula
As we aimed to improve habitats for Hanwell Hedgehogs, we focused on the wildlife corridors and green spaces along the Grand Union Canal and in Hanwell.
A team of about 20 different volunteers attended each event and created “deluxe” log piles in Half Acre Wood (December 2022), Boston Manor Park (Jan/Feb 2023), and Boles Meadow (May 2023). About 25 of these hibernacula were constructed from natural resources, with invaluable assistance from the Ealing Park Rangers, Jamie and Carl, Ealing Park Rangers plus the welcome tea/biscuits too!
Deep litter-picking events were also a key part of habitat improvement. We thank our Ealing’s litter-picking heroes, LAGER Can, and many youth volunteers in Boston Manor Par.
As every EWG member knows, log and leaf piles are fabulous wildlife havens. Even if the Hedgehogs don’t use them to hibernate, EWG has created 25 huge bug hotels across the area, so we have done our bit for biodiversity too.
At Framfield allotments some 16 highways have been created between the site and gardens. Soft-release modified hutches were created in April 2023 and after an information campaign advising plot holders how to help Hedgehogs, seven Hedgehogs were released onto the site with a rehabilitator. These Hedgehogs needed to be released into a safe habitat as they could not be released at their original sites.
Education and outreach events (I couldn’t make that start with an ‘H’!)
We ran educational family Hedgehog-themed events attended by nearly 200 people in Boston Manor Park over the February half-term and Easter holidays.
We put informative posters up in windows, distributed over 500 Hedgehog Street leaflets and emailed about 45 Ealing schools a handout “How to help biodiversity in Ealing” which included lots of Hedgehog-related advice. Schools cascaded the handout digitally to parents.
We delivered talks on wildlife in West London to most primary schools in Ealing, and several in Hounslow along the wildlife corridor connecting Ealing to Hounslow. EWG members attended allotment bio blitzes, engaged with wildlife committees and delivered talks on the project.
And all of that in 10 months. By about 30 dedicated and generous EWG team members. (And often their families too).
We will be wrapping up this project over the coming months, but haven’t quite finished yet.
To continue the expansion of the Hedgehog Highways project, we will be recruiting an equally incredible team to expand our habitat, highway creation, and educational outreach to Acton, Northolt and Southall.
Do you love a Hog? If so, consider joining our task force! All Hedgehogs deserve to be happier, not just Hanwell hogs 😉
So many have been involved and in addition to those named above extra special thanks need to go to the following: Amira, Caroline, Darren, Fiona, Gemma, Jane F, Jane H, Lorraine, Martin, Rob and Sue, plus Sandra and Sean without whom none of this would have happened!