I love hedgehogs and see them as an ambling, loveable, flea-scratching symbol of hope and freedom, as well as the rights of the scruffy and marginal to be scruffy and marginal. If they can survive in your garden, your garden is healthy. If the species survives our depredations, it’s probably a reasonable barometer of other kinds of health. In my deep studies of them, I learned that an over tidy garden is bad news, and you should leave piles of old leaves, rotting stumps and other grub-growing undisturbances lying around.
We have a hedgehog who lives in our garden, emerging from the hedge at dusk. If you sit quietly, he meanders about, ignoring you, finding bits and pieces to eat, or drinking at the bird-baths. Occasionally we put out a treat for him, and he loves avocado, banana and even cheese rind. The first time we put out half a banana we left it in its skin. We found the peel the next morning.
One early morning I was sitting by the hedge having a dawn coffee, and he sauntered behind and under my chair after his night on the town. I loved the fact we met as I was beginning my day and he was ending his night.
If you have a garden, do leave a scruffy, marginal mess here and there and a hole in the fence for them – they need a good stretch of terrain to go on walkabout and if you seal everything hermetically you interfere with their nightly explorations.
And throw in the odd banana or avocado.
The prospect of their loss seems dreadful, partly, I think, because the hedgehog should be seen as the symbol of a kind of world, or even of a certain frame of mind: self-absorbed, private, snuffling through the landscape, self-protective, neither very dynamic nor sharp but dignified and curiously important … its fondness for the private, the scruffy and the marginal – all make it a measure of the landscape’s health as a whole.
Source: Adam Nicolson, Sissinghurst: An unfinished history (London: Harper Press, 2009), p. 320
Photo credit: Alexas_Fotos at pixabay