As a child, during the warmer months of the year hedgehogs were a common sight even in towns and semi-rural areas. Especially if you put a saucer of bread and milk out for them as my lovely father did most nights. Hedgehog watching became a nightly pastime and often they would be joined by other hungry creatures such as foxes and badgers.
As soon as they became familiar that you were a feeder the news got out and whole families turned up grunting competitively over what was on offer. Occasionally my dad would feed them a plateful of cat food and then things became particularly competitive.
Sometimes we would have eight or more visiting us and then one night a far rarer easy to identify albino hedgehog was amongst their ranks. Unfortunately, he only had the opportunity to visit us a few times before getting run over on the road outside our house.
My poor day was such a compassionate man and tears came to his eyes while he wished terrible thing on the careless driver who had done this terrible deed.
“I hope he gets a puncture was his usual dark wish!” Obviously, mainly due to our roads, these little characters have been in gradual decline for the past sixty years or more.
However, I didn’t realise until the other night I haven’t seen one, or even evidence of their bodies on the roads for YEARS.
For so long they were so profuse that they were run-over on our roads regularly and just yards apart, and their dried out remain littered our streets like old discarded scrubbing brushes.
The other night at 2 am I had to retrieve our prodigal returning son from Bristol airport just 12 miles, away and as I drove the country lanes deer were everywhere. I also saw an enormous badger and a couple of foxes.
Then just as we got back to our village a rarer sight brought a smile to my face. It was a large hedgehog who walked stubbornly in front of my car for a minute or so without yielding access. It’s not difficult to understand have they have become a rarity.
My middle of the night journey became so much more worthwhile and enjoyable for seeing this little chap, I wonder if I’ll ever see another?