Severn Trent has pledged support to help boost biodiversity in the Rushcliffe village of Keyworth over a two-year period for a pilot project called, Keyworth Hedgehog Highways.
Wild Things Keyworth, a local awareness group set up in 2020 to lift morale and connect people with nature, has been successful in gaining a grant on the ‘Severn Trent, Great Big Nature Boost’ scheme.
Founder and spokesperson for Wild Things Keyworth, Jennifer Manning-Ohren said: “We are delighted that Severn Trent has chosen to support our project. The aim is to get the infrastructure and natural habitat in place across the village to sustain a thriving hedgehog community for generations to come.”
“Last year we started off asking for posts and trail camera footage of nature on our Facebook page when people did their exercise on walks, runs, bike rides, or simply in their gardens during the lockdowns.
“The response was fantastic. Amongst the night cam footage we kept identifying more and more hedgehogs, so soon coined the name, “Keyworth, Hedgehog Village.” She said.
“With Severn Trent’s grant, we seek to identify and equip one hundred households on one hundred roads as junction points on the Keyworth Hedgehog Highway.” She said.
The “Super Hedgehog Carers” will receive a starter pack of essentials for hedgehogs and get gaps made through any concrete based fencing. They will be encouraged to get on board with greening up further with a commitment to steer away from things like false grass and chemical based gardening and inspiring neighbours to link in.
“There is a fair amount of mapping, planning, sourcing and distribution involved for the project. Any savings we can make will go back into obtaining and growing more trees and shrubs.
“They will also receive a BHPS green plaque, which is a promise to keep gaps open for our hogs now and in the future. Let’s not forget, we have plonked ourselves on their territories and have expected them to adapt somehow, without making provision.
“As a result, hedgehogs often get stuck in things like chicken wire trying to move around or resort to dangerous road crossings. We’d like signage too that alerts drivers to their presence from dusk til dawn.”
As a minimum, Hedgehogs need 13cms x 13cms gaps made in structures to pass through unimpeded and meet mates. The access is important as they can travel 2kms a night, males up to 3kms in breeding season, which is now. They also need humans to restore natural habitat such as dense hedgerow, shrubs, log piles and leave wilder, natural gardens.
“The time has come to really think about the wildlife that is striving to survive alongside us and to do our bit to redress the skewed world we now live in.” She said.
“If we can get this care right for hedgehogs we are helping all nature in the process” including ourselves. We need to value green habitat in a way we may never have viewed it before. We need to tweak the trajectory we have got ourselves on, to look to restore or create more dense-based hedgerow and even mini forests.”
“On walks I come across things like treatments at the base of trees or on verges. If we use chemicals on grass, this affects creepy crawlies the natural food that hedgehogs eat, so we inadvertently pave the way for secondary poison.“ If you wouldn’t put it on your dinner plate, why put it on wildlife food?
She continued: “People may wonder why the focus is on the wild British hedgehog. As an indicator species, their wellbeing, health and prevalence is a direct indication as to how well other creatures are dealing with environmental conditions such things as climate change, which in turn affects us. We have now lost one third of all hedgehogs since the year 2000 alone and that alarms me
“We may not realise it, but excessive fencing, especially concrete based, paving, gravel, false grass and even decking, create sterile deserts for nature. Many of us understand we need to plant more trees and be relaxed about letting areas in gardens grow wild, but do we do it? Every garden could have at least one tree, hedgerow, wild flowers and of course gaps for hedgehogs. Our project, with the help of STW, sets to make that an exciting reality in Keyworth where there has been a gradual decline of green areas on many central roads and a propensity for rapid hedgerow removal and tree felling.”
“These endearing creatures live alongside all of us, but for how long? We must accept they are under threat from human negligence. Whether that be littering, indirect poisoning or destruction of habitat, fragmentation from feeding grounds, road kill, even drowning in ponds because there are no ramps or shorelines out, human expansion with building developments that make no account of their existence. We have to understand the cycle of harm that creates loss in the blink of an eye and value the biodiversity that exists in nature that can never be found in the synthetic.” She said.
She continued: “At a basic level, we haven’t accommodated their needs. We forget they are there and often indirectly act against them. I’ve had a few people say to me they haven’t seen hedgehogs in 30 years. So what are we doing to encourage them? Make provision and they will come. We now have the footage to say they are active locally, but we need to preserve and encourage more of that to sustain a viable community for future generations.”
Many people don’t realise what they can do. Leaving a simple bowl of fresh clean water out at night as a minimum will aid a passing hog and all wildlife. Kitten biscuits (kibble) helps even more and this is the simplest safe food to remember. They are lactose intolerant and there is a long list of things they must not be fed, like mealworms. Stopping the use of slug pellets or chemicals in the environment such as pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, which affect food sources and water courses, is another thing we can do.
“Partnering with Severn Trent is a fantastic boost to help all wildlife. People tell me that having trees and green areas and hearing birdsong supports their mental health. Trees and hedgerow take so long to grow and conversely very little time to remove. Nature cannot keep up with such rapidity of change that it comes to rely on and some people identify sudden loss of greenery and mature trees as a form of bereavement, like lost friends. We need to be more mindful about the effect our actions have on the green recovery and in turn, human health.
She added: “It is also important that housing developments make provision on their new build estates.” I see it right now as a question of moral obligation, ahead of legal necessity, which will come.
Helen Purdy from Severn Trent, said: “The Keyworth Hedgehog Highways project is one of 70 applications we are supporting in the region, through our Boost for Biodiversity grant scheme. It’s a project we’re proud to get behind, because we understand how important it is for communities to live alongside nature better. Linking gardens and giving hedgehogs the space they need, is a winner for us all.”
She continued: “When we look after nature, we look after water too. That’s why we’ve pledged to revive 5,000 hectares of land, plant over one million trees and help restore 2,000km of rivers. This project will help us reach those green goals.”
The Keyworth Hedgehog Highways project feeds in to the national aims of the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS), Hedgehog Street and the PTES which for the last 10 years has been looking for a commitment from communities to better improve access between neighbouring gardens and bolster natural habitat for these ‘at risk to extinction’ mammals.