When we first landed at Merrybower, about ten years ago to the day, we were chuffed to bits with a hedgehog that sporadically showed itself – one night even appearing silhouetted against the garage doors by the car headlights, like a slightly less sinister parody of Nosferatu.
But as the years passed, the hedgehog has been sadly lacking here, for whatever reason. The reality is that whilst we live in the countryside, we are surrounded by open fields, the distance between hedges growing ever longer as some are grubbed up to allow for larger machinery.
However, this year our hedgehog, the one above, has become a nightly visitor, almost like clockwork. Of course, the hedgehog’s clock isn’t based on time, but the sun, and our prickly fellow pops into the garden to nibble on fallen grain from the bird feeder, having wobbled its way from the patch. We’ve been careful to leave gaps under the various gates, to allow such passage, and delighted to find our little friend is making use of his own personal highway.
It doesn’t stop there though! A few weeks ago I was on my way down to the patch to close the coop pop holes when I noticed a prickly bottom poking from a clump of grass near the rhubarb patch. At first, in the light from my head torch, I thought it *was* a clump of grass, but the noise gave it away. It had its head firmly planted in the grass, and wasn’t shifting, so I carried on. Several minutes later, coming up the path in the opposite direction I met the hedgehog once more, heading back to the patch having extracted itself from the clump. Rather sweetly he just bent his head to one side, to avoid being blinded by the beacon on my bonce. I muttered an apology to “Mr Hedgehog” and scurried past him, watching him continue on his merry way as I’d passed. Fifteen feet further I glanced at the clump I’d seen him in and, to my delight, there was a prickly bottom still wedged tight! Wait til I tell Suz, I thought – two hedgehogs!
My last chore was to head to the front of the house and bring the eggs in from the front and to empty the honesty box. Now either one of our two previous friends was extremely quick on their legs and had sprinted around the house or, as I strongly suspect – mainly due to the fact this one was so much larger – I was confronted with a third hedgehog coming in under the main gate! Wow – three hedgehogs at Merrybower – incredible!
That night further affirms the good that our way of growing does for not only ourselves, but the animals we share the land with – we’ve gone from an empty acre of monoculture crop to a feast of wildlife, all making it their home. And that feels good.