The humble common hedgehog is endemic to Europe, with a range extending west to the Iberian Peninsula and east as far as northwestern Russia. Its name comes from its peculiar method of foraging in hedges and the pig-like grunt it utters. Half of their bodies are covered in a coat of sharp spikes and they curl into a tight ball when foxes, badgers or other predators approach. They have a varied diet that includes insects, worms, centipedes, snails, mice, frogs and even snakes. Common hedgehogs hibernate in winter, with males and females occasionally hunkering down together in the nest. Despite the name, this species is far from common – there were 36 million in Britain in 1950 – now less than a million remain. In relative terms, this now makes the common hedgehog rarer than the royal bengal tiger.
- On the Channel Island of Alderney, there is a rare population of around a thousand ‘blonde’ hedgehogs.
- Hedgehogs can swim quite well, but will drown in garden ponds if they can’t climb out.
- Hedgehogs wander widely and can travel up to 12 miles in one night.
Time of year: The British weather is notoriously changeable, but the best time to visit is between April and early June or September/October.
Destination: Shepreth Wildlife Park in Cambridgeshire has over 400 animals, birds and invertebrates resident on site with 120 different worldwide species (not to mention the abundance of native wild species which take up residence in this tranquil haven). Using natural settings, this wildlife paradise is the perfect place for an inspiring visit where all ages can appreciate the natural world and the conservation issues engulfing it. Animal visibility is pretty much guaranteed, and the park has a strong emphasis on imagination and fun. A Hedgehog Hospital is part of the park, and there are a variety of tours families can take to see behind the scenes here.
Where to Stay: The self-catering Nobleo Apartments are 5-star apartments in the centre of the historic university town of Cambridge. Each apartment is uniquely designed as a work of art, using the finest materials and furnishings and providing every modern amenity.
Price Guide: One-bedroom apartment from £139 per night. Two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment from £159 per night.