It’s been a thrilling, whirling week at Warwickshire Wildlife Trust. A week that will forever be known as “the week of the hedgehog”. It saw us launch the UK’s very first Hedgehog Improvement Area. It’s a really exciting new project, and we hope that it will be one that leads the way for hedgehog conservation. Over the course of the next year, Solihull is going to see landscape-scale habitat improvements; connecting gardens and mapping the hedgehog population. The whole community is going to be encouraged to get involved, becoming wildlife guardians for one of our most loved and precious species.
UK firsts don’t come along very often, and while we certainly knew that we were excited about launching the HIA project, we didn’t know how it was going to be received more widely, or whether anyone would want to report on it. So the build up to the launch was filled with nervous anticipation, particularly for the Communications team. We’re here to inform people about the amazing work being done by the staff at the Trust; so we really hoped that we had a huge opportunity in our hands here.
Wow. Just wow. I don’t think that any of us predicted just how positively the story was going to be received, or quite how much people love hedgehogs! There really is something that captures the imagination about these charismatic little creatures, and that charisma made for one heck of a week. Brilliant and hectic are the words that immediately come to mind, closely followed by a slightly fuzzy headed adrenaline rush.
It all kicked off the week before, filming for BBC Breakfast and BBC Midlands Today. Simon, who had been our Hedgehog Officer for only 3 weeks, experienced a true baptism of fire in his new job being put in front of many different cameras. This included our own as we interviewed him for the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust Youtube channel. Luckily for us he’s rather good at it, and has already earned himself the nickname “One Take Thompson”. So we ramped it up a notch. After all, everybody loves a challenge…
Enter Launch Day. Tuesday 17th March 2015 saw a somewhat tired Simon and myself hitting the BBC Coventry and Warwickshire studios at 6.15am. I got the easy bit, manning Twitter and Facebook and telling the world what we were up to and why. Simon on the other hand did three straight interviews on three different radio stations, all before his first cup of coffee…
Then came the crowning glory. The pinnacle; the pièce de résistance; one of those career-defining moments where you know that you have achieved something of greatness. Newsround. Oh yes, we made it onto Newsround. Jealousy, pride and nostalgia were all present in equal measure as I watched Simon take centre stage for his debut Newsround interview.
The real wonder of launch day though wasn’t Simon and his stamina for interviews. It was the overwhelming response that we received from you. The great joy of my job on Tuesday was to respond to all the kind, supportive and above all excited tweets, Facebook posts and Instagram messages about the Hedgehog Improvement Area. To see so many people thrilled by the potential of this project showed just how much you all care for our incredible native wildlife, and the huge drive that exists across the country to support and care for it.
So I do hope that you visit the website, and that you keep following the HIA project on Twitter and Facebook. We are starting out here on what we hope will be the future of hedgehog conservation, and we very much hope that you will continue to help us to achieve it.
Our very great thanks go to all the TV, radio and newspaper outlets who featured the Hedgehog Improvement Area, and to all others who have shared their support. Thanks go also to Sally at Happyhogs Hedegehog Rescue who allowed us to film with some of her rehabilitated hedgehogs.
The Hedgehog Improvement Area project is very generously funded by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society.