Church Farm Ardeley

A Free Range Experience

Is it a duckling? Is it a piglet? No! It’s a hedgehog!

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Hedgehogs, or indeed, hedgepigs (no this isn’t a real word, just an overly cutesy and daft alternative to the correct title of this particular mammal) are amongst the favourites of British wildlife moments.

I mean there is nothing to not like really is there. They are cute, they aren’t fluffy, but they roll into a ball if something that they don’t like apporaches (trust me, sometimes I wish I could roll into a ball when something that I don’t like approaches!), they can wiggle their nose with the best of them, and they are walking spine cushions. Seriously, its all the amazement of nature in one round, spikey, outrageously ridiculous package.

Now, I hadn’t yet seen a hedgehog since my arrival, but I had been assured that they were about, nosing around the caravans in caravan land and making a racket so terrible that one was led to have circumspect thoughts as to what behaviour was being witnessed. My friend Liz who manages the facebook page and website, shared a couple of disturbing stories with me that I have chosen to block from my mind, but needless to say, I was pretty confident that we had entire hedgepig families on the farm.

Coupled with Rik the grower complaining about the amount of hedgehog scat all over his plants, I became fairly confident of a seeing these notorious insectivores. And indeed the time had come! Sitting outside my trailer on a cold and clear autumn night last week, I was startled by a terrible scraping sound just the other side of the fence. Now, there isn’t that much distance between myself and the fence, and after a pint of cider, one’s imagination can go into overdrive a little (full moon, spooky farm, boyfriend dressed all in black and throwing shadows everywhere with just his voice emanating from the gloom, see where I’m coming from?)

So, whilst I’m desperately trying to get my beloved to stop laughing at me as I creep ninja style towards the scraping (curiosity always gets the better of me) to discover the cause, however scary it may be, I was relieved, indeed happy, to see the familiar sillohette of a roly poly hedgepig. Said hedgepig was busy pulling his or her body under the wire fence into Home field, where he or she trotted merrily through the grass, snuffling away, getting on with hedgepig business.

Having hedgehogs is a great thing for the farm. First, they eat slugs! As an organic farm, we rely on natural predators to deal with these horrible slimy leaf munchers, so we need all the hedgehogs we can get. Secondly, the numbers of British hedgehogs have dropped by 25% in 10 years! This is a travesty! Please visit http://www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk/ to see how you can help our hedgehogs, because they are delightful animals and is so sad that like so many other native creatures, they are going into decline. Wildlife friendly farms such as Church Farm have a huge role to play in creating suitable habitats for British Wildlife, so if you don’t fancy having hedgehogs in your garden, you can come and enjoy a Church Farm breakfast or buy some Church Farm sausages, supporting your neighbouring hedgehogs instead!

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