When we moved here permanently fifteen years ago this July (is it that long ago?!) friends used to say with a degree of disbelief edged with irritation: “Oh don’t be silly! what’ll you do there?“
I can’t remember answering: “we are going to rear hedgehogs!“–although I might have felt like saying that.
Now it appears that–is exactly what we are doing.
We have a family of them living in the woodpile–at least that’s the direction from which they come.
As dusk falls–about 9.45pm at present–we can be sitting round the table at the back–often with company–when we sense a presence and turning slowly behold a small creature making its way forward, apparently unaware that he or she is not alone.
Suddenly we come into ear or eyeshot and it stops, frozen, sometimes for more than a minute, before deciding that LATER would be wiser–and scuttling off, keeping close to the wall.
This excursion isn’t an idle evening stroll–it’s feeding time for hungry hedgehogs–in the know.
There are always an assortment of half empty cat bowls with leftovers, waiting to be polished off.
Some evenings when a bowl is partially hidden we will hear a faint munching sound.
“Harrumph, harrumph, harrumph“–feeding time in full swing.
The cats–well fed by this time–look on with puzzled interest.
“What is it? This spiky ball with its snout in our trough?
Leave well alone–don’t go there–live and let live?“
Last year in a BBC poll to find an animal to play the part of National Animal Treasure, the hedgehog was a runaway (scuttle away, more like) winner.
The British love reluctant heroes and Mrs Tiggywinkle (Beatrice Potter’s invention) fits the bill–shunning the limelight and keeping herself to herself.
I’m in favor of hedgehogs–the world needs more of them and too many of the poor creatures end up as roadkill.
If we are inadvertently responsible for nurturing a family or two–I reckon that’s a good enough reason to move to France!