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Meet the couple who are saving Derby’s hedgehogs from extinction

today18 September 2022 1

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For many people, spotting a hedgehog in their back garden is a surprise and a rarity. But for Mik and Juliet Wood, from Darley Abbey, it’s a daily occurrence.

The couple have converted their entire back garden into a hedgehog-friendly haven over the course of the last five years. They now play host to around eight in total, who come and go from the purpose-built shelters and feeding stations, as Mik and Juliet hope to protect them from extinction.

While their love for hedgehogs has lasted a while, it was only during lockdown in 2020 that Mik invested in a night-vision video camera to capture activity during the night. Now, he shares clips online as the pair try to raise awareness for their prickly pals.

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“We put the camera out where we think they might be on an evening and we see what we get really.

“We’ve captured all sorts of behaviour – feeding, drinking, fighting. It’s a bit of a boy’s toy. I got one first and then some of the other guys on the street got one too.”

It all started five years ago when Julie joined the Ramblers walking group and became close friends with Sallyanne Greenwood, who runs Derby Hedgehog Rescue (DHR) in Mackworth. After learning about their plight, Julie was sold.

Now, they work in close conjunction with Sallyanne, providing a service to both wild hedgehogs and to those rescued by DHR. Their bustling garden is used as a space to release injured hedgehogs back into the wild, after either Sallyanne or they have nurtured them back to full health.



Pictured is Juliet next to their main hedgehog shelter and feeding station
Juliet next to their main hedgehog shelter and feeding station

Half a decade on, the garden is now fully adapted for hedgehogs and wildlife. Julie is a self-employed gardener by trade, so knowing what to put where was easy.

“We’ve got food-specific feeding stations, with entrances and exits at right angles so cats can’t get in. We have six purpose-built hedgehog houses for them to sleep and hibernate in and six log piles where they can self-build their own dens. We lay any hedge or tree cuttings around the edge of the garden to encourage insects, which hedgehogs thrive on. And we’ve got six shallow bowls of water around the garden for all wildlife to drink from.”

Mik and Jules have lived on Woodland Road in the Six Streets area of Derby for 30 years, forming an ‘extremely tight community’ with their neighbours in that time. As a result, they’ve been able to easily spread the word.

They managed to get everyone who lives on their side of the road to make gaps under fences in their gardens, forming a ‘hedgehog highway’ that spans the length of the street. While Derby City Council are not yet on board, many local authorities are now making it compulsory for new-build housing estates to include hedgehog highways in every back garden.



Pictured is the Hedgehog Highway in Mik and Juliet's back garden
The hedgehog highway in Mik and Juliet’s back garden

Through the cameras, Mik and Jules can identify which hedgehogs are new to the garden and which are returning customers. The hedgehogs anoint each other’s backs, leaving distinct patterns, which can be picked up on video.

Some have been around for years and call the garden home. They’ll hibernate there in the winter and wander off to roam during summer nights before returning to sleep in the daytime.

None of Mik, Juliet or Sallyanne’s work is for profit. They just want to raise awareness and care for the creatures.

They’ve even gone as far as to install street signs warning motorists of the hedgehogs in the area.

“We hope people will slow down and not squash them,” says Juliet.



The hedgehog warning sign installed on the street outside their home by Mik Wood
The hedgehog warning sign installed on the street outside their home by Mik Wood

Every May, Juliet hosts a sale of plants she’s grown in her back garden to coincide with Hedgehog Awareness Week. All the money raised goes to DHR, and this year they’ve made £600.

“If we don’t do something about protecting them, looking after them and trying to multiply their numbers now, they won’t be in existence in 10-15 years,” she says.

Mik and Juliet’s Hedgehog videos can be viewed on Mik’s Twitter page: @mikster_derby. For more information on how to look after and care for hedgehogs in your own garden, visit: https://www.hedgehogstreet.org/.

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