Waking Up is Hard to Do

Guest post by Steph Best – wildlife hospital and rehabilitation volunteer with Vale animal Hospital

One of the most recognisable and pleasing noises you can hear at dusk in your garden, is the snuffling and rustling of Hedgehogs. Often you can catch glimpses of them as they forage under bushes and scurry through the flower beds, eating spiders, snails, and any other tasty morsels they deem worthy.

When they first emerge from hibernation in the spring, having snoozed away the cold winter months, they simply want to eat to fill up their fat reserves and start looking for romance!

Unfortunately every year some are not so lucky. During our hotter, longer summers many hedgehogs have a second litter of Hoglets in the autumn. These babies struggle to reach the 600g weight needed to survive the winter and as a result hedgehog carers, myself included, and wildlife hospitals sometimes receive an influx of autumn juveniles, brought in by concerned members of the public. Last year Evesham’s Vale Wildlife Hospital had over ninety hoglets due for release in the spring.

I started caring for Hedgehogs a couple of years ago after finding two Hoglets wandering around a relative’s garden. My wildlife hobby soon developed and took me to the Vale Wildlife Hospital where I began training in Wildlife care and rehabilitation. I now also enjoy doing a range of talks and school visits, educating adults and children in wildlife care, supported by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society. The Vale has an open day every year, and is well worth a visit to see what they actually do.

Hedgehogs were added to the ‘species in need of protection’ list recently, but many wildlife carers believe that they should have made the Endangered Species List. Sadly humans are once again the main cause, with habitat loss, road accidents, litter, enclosed gardens and netting, bonfires, and accidents with lawn mowers.

Many people are already Hedgehog aware, and leave out food and provide shelter for them. TV programs such as ‘Autumn and Spring Watch’ have also helped popularise wildlife awareness. This is a lovely time of year to look out for and enjoy our wildlife. Hoglets usually start to appear from May onwards, and you could well have several different Hedgehogs visiting your garden each night. They can wander up to two miles in an evening, visiting ten or more gardens looking for food and love.

There are several ways you can encourage Hedgehogs in your garden:

  • Regularly put out meat based pet foods and plenty of water in shallow dishes, or on old dinner plates, which are perfect.
  • Contrary to what many people believe hedgehogs should not be given milk to drink, as they cannot digest lactose and can become very ill. Bread is also not recommended as it can cause digestive clogging.
  • You can add to their natural diet by giving fruit, unsalted nuts, scrambled egg, meat left-over’s (cut up small), and some cat or dog biscuits. They should not be fed fish, however, or pork products or other salty foods.
  • You can make a feeding station by putting the food under a wooden board up on bricks, low enough for a Hedgehog to get under or get a plastic storage box, 30cm by 45cm, cut a door way in the shorter side, 10cm square; tape up the edges of the doorway, line it with newspaper, and place the food and water inside towards the back of the box, shut the lid to keep thieving cats away. Place the box in a sheltered area of your garden where there is any evidence of hedgehogs visiting.
  • Create a daytime sleeping place for hedgehogs by putting straw or shredded newspaper in a medium sized box, under a sheltered spot, cover the top with some plastic to keep it dry.
  • Keep garden netting and sports netting up off the ground by at least 1ft, to avoid causing strangulation injuries to tangled hedgehogs.
  • Cover drains, and check compost heaps before sticking a fork or spade in, and thoroughly check bonfires before lighting. Many Hedgehogs die this time of year because they sleep in piles of dried garden refuse ready burning. If you find a Hedgehog move it to a safer quiet place in the garden.
  • When mowing or strimming areas of long grass, or undergrowth check for Hedgehogs who could be asleep. Carers and Wildlife Sanctuaries have seen a big increase in horrific injuries caused by strimmers.
  • If you use slug pellets, please buy organic varieties, which are animal friendly and widely available at garden centres, or use some of the brilliant alternatives, such as nematodes, copper tape, egg shells and beer traps.
  • If you have an enclosed garden, make a small gap under a fence to encourage Hedgehogs.
  • Don’t let your dog ‘play’ with a hedgehog in the garden, as the Hedgehog may die from shock. Move it to a quieter area of the garden where the dog can’t get to it, and distract your dog by playing with its favourite toy.
  • If you see a Hedgehog out during the day, it will need help. They never come out in daylight unless disturbed or ill. If you’re worried a Hedgehog is ill, injured, or abandoned by its mum, put it in a warm place wrapped in an old towel, offer it cat/dog food and water and ring a carer or the BHPS for advice.
  • Never disturb a nest, especially in the evening the mother generally won’t be far away and could abandon the babies if scared.

Making a few changes and adapting our gardens to help wildlife may seem small in scale, but will have a large impact overall. Hedgehogs are such a pleasure to see in our gardens and have been an inspiration for stories passed down the generations – I still have my very first copy of Beatrix Potter’s Mrs. Tiggywinkle.

Hopefully with our help they can thrive and inspire more stories for years to come.

The British Hedgehog Preservation Society

The Vale Wildlife Hospital & Rehabilitation Centre

Photos by Steph Best

10 Ways to Simplify Your Life

Inner voice saying ‘work harder, do more, have more, be more’ ? Always tired as a result. It doesn’t have to be that way.

1              Identify What’s Important

Moving to a simpler way of life requires the letting go of non-essentials, so that you can focus on what’s important. Look at all parts of your life and decide what you value most.

2              Evaluate Your Time

What are you doing with your time ? Is the way you spend your time in-line with your priorities ? Do you spend enough time with family, friends, and by yourself ? Re-evaluate your commitments – eliminate time wasters and do what you love.

3              Create More Free Time

For many of us, our lives are simply too full. Free-up time in your day by reducing your commitments and including and protecting more free time in your schedule. Cut down your to-do-list. Consider making a don’t-do-list of things you can happily do without. By reducing the number of our activities we can reduce stress, and get more out of what we do.

4              Reject Status

Question your motives, and reject anything you are doing for recognition or approval in the eyes of others. Concentrate on substance not image and stop feeding your ego. Buy and do things based on their utility or enjoyment to you, rather than prestige.

5              Give Up Some Control

Focus on controlling yourself and your own thoughts and actions, rather than wasting energy seeking to control others or events. Don’t focus on irrelevant details, and don’t aim for perfection – know when to let go and move on.

6              Relaxed Efficiency

We need to balance our desire to be more efficient and productive against the risk of becoming obsessional about it. Develop a simple system for managing tasks and commitments, and make using it a habit. Try to reduce the amount of time you spend multi-tasking. Limit your distractions and try to create a relaxed ‘flow’ state by fixing your attention on what you are doing.

7              Question Your Dependency on Material Possessions

Recognise the difference between the things you need and want, and learn how enjoy things without owning them. Minimise and de-clutter to surround yourself with less stuff, carry less stuff with you. Get into the habit of giving things away – de-accumulate.

8              Limit your Inputs

Think about how much information you process everyday – media, email, news, reading, TV. Our brains weren’t designed to handle so much information and it can result in overload and stress. Question the value of your inputs and impose boundaries, eliminating any non-essentials.

9              Slow Down

If we’re over-committed and rushing through life we risk missing the quality of the moment. Practice the art of ‘being present’ and pay attention to what is happening now, rather than mentally reviewing the past or worrying about the future. Make an concious effort to eat, talk, breathe and walk more slowly, to help ground yourself in the present.

10           Appreciate Life

It’s easy to be grateful for being alive – what’s the alternative? Try to actively practice gratitude – grateful people are happier, less depressed, less anxious, less stressed and more satisfied with their social relationships. If we spend more time thinking about what we already have, we will be less inclined to constantly want more, and as a result feel more generous towards others.

Photo by Dan Zen, via Flickr

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Wisdom vs Intelligence

Are you wise ?

Are you trying to become more wise ?

What exactly does wise mean, anyway ?

When I was a teenager I used to play a game called Dungeons and Dragons (think World of Warcraft before computers). The basic idea was to play the part of a made-up character, perhaps a wizard, a warrior or an elf, and have fantasy type adventures – fighting monsters, solving puzzles, collecting treasure, and generally generally hanging out with your mates pretending to be Gandalf or Conan.

It worked through a complex series of rules, with dice rolls used to control various outcomes such as magic and combat, and also to define the various attributes of the character you play. For example, your character might have high strength, but poor charisma and dexterity. Two of the game’s other character attributes were intelligence and wisdom, and I was always a little uncertain about the difference between the two, and in particular what was meant by wisdom anyway?

Intelligence seems familiar and straightforward, it’s the ability to solve problems, understand complexity, make connections and recall relevant facts. We sometimes refer to different types of intelligence (such as spatial, verbal and emotional), have recognised ways of measuring it and understand exactly what someone means if they say we’re brainy or smart (or dumb).

Wisdom is harder to pin down.

We see it as being something to do with having good judgement, making good choices and consistently knowing the right thing to do. Various dictionaries define wisdom as incorporating deep understanding, insight, common sense or the ability to discern what is right.

Wisdom also seems to require a degree of self-knowledge, and the ability to control emotional reactions and impulses, and remain consistent with personal principles and beliefs.

There is another key quality to wisdom though: action. Wisdom is largely about being and doing – with outcomes, results and consequences all being an important component. Wisdom could perhaps be described as applied intelligence. In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt: “Never mistake knowledge for wisdom, one helps you make a living, the other helps you make a life”.

The reason I’ve been pondering wisdom and intelligence this week is largely due to my reflecting on the Live Below the Line challenge I did recently . . . I’m intelligent and well-informed enough to know what I should eat on a regular basis in order to make myself healthier, save money and live more in-tune with my espoused principals regarding food justice etc, so why do I so often struggle to do it ?

I’m sure it’s not just me – we all have enough information at our disposal, but we don’t always put it into practice. We seem to have enough intelligence, but we often seem lacking in wisdom.

I don’t think this is a trivial issue.

Imagine if we had the collective intelligence to discover a cure for cancer tomorrow. Think of the premature deaths that would be avoided and the improved quality of life for millions. Many of the world’s best minds are working on developing a cure, with hundreds of millions of dollars at their disposal every year, and I’ve no doubt we will eventually succeed in our aims.

There are other problems though that don’t seemingly require any more intelligence to solve – where all that’s holding us back is our lack of what could be described as wisdom.

Diet related diseases already kill more people prematurely in the developed world than cancer, and this is set to rise further in the coming years as the rate of obesity continues to increase further. Yet we all know what a healthy diet looks like, that exercise is good for us and what our ideal weight is. We have the necessary information – why can’t we sort ourselves out ?

The organisation TED (technology, innovation and design) was founded in 1984 with the aim of spreading and promoting good ideas. Every year they award a one hundred thousand dollar prize to what they consider to be the most promising and important new social project of the year. In 2010 the prize was won by the UK chef and food activist Jamie Oliver for his Food Revolution work. Jamie argues passionately in his TED presentation that we need to change the ‘landscape of food’ around us, to make it easier for us all to make better food choices.


How can we cultivate the necessary wisdom to change ourselves ?

Self-knowledge, self-control and self-development are incredibly important life skills, and we should ensure we are giving them our best attention. Undoing old habits and creating new ones is hard, and we can’t rely on our willpower and best intentions alone. Perhaps if we work to understand ourselves and create surroundings, circumstances and relationships in our lives that make it easier for us to make better choices, more in-line with our beliefs and convictions, then we’ll have more success – whether it’s with not eating too much junk food, reducing our carbon footprint, or being more sustainable and ethical consumers.

There is a well know prayer that asks for “the strength to change the things I can’t accept, the serenity to accept the things I can’t change, and the wisdom to know the difference”.

If you work out how to do this, then please let me know.

Photo by James Bowe, via Flickr

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The World’s Dirtiest River

The Citarum River in West Java, Indonesia was declared the ‘dirtiest river in the world’ by the Asian Development Bank in 2008. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on various improvement projects, so far with very little success.

Millions of  people depend upon the river for their water supply, including many poor rural communities who must take their untreated drinking water directly from the river.

Photo from The Daily Mail

6 Ideas to Change What’s Outside Your Door

“We have theories, specialisms, regulations, exhortations, demonstration projects. We have planners. We have highway engineers. We have mixed use, mixed tenure, architecture, community architecture, urban design, neighbourhood strategy. But what seems to have happened is that we have simply lost the art of placemaking; or, put another way, we have lost the simple art of placemaking. We are good at putting up buildings but we are bad at making places.” - Bernard Hunt, Architect

What’s it like outside your front door ?

1              Depressing and Run-Down ?

Organise a community clean-up day to clear litter, or perhaps join a Litter Action Group. Report any fly-tipping, abandoned cars, abusive graffiti, dangerous pavements or pot holes to your local Council - believe it or not they will be pleased to hear from you. Love Where You Live and Keep Britain Tidy have more ideas for sprucing-up your local area. To make a longer lasting change, take inspiration from organisations like Building Living Neighbourhoods and Glass House, and get involved with community planning.

2              No Community Spirit ?

Consider joining a local club, society, church, or other organisation, or perhaps a  Neighbourhood Watch group. There may be a local Timebank scheme or environmental group you can join. In some places there may be a Transition Group working towards preparing for a post peak-oil, more sustainable future. Consider volunteering – there will be numerous local organisations seeking help; try CSV, Do It or Volunteering England for ideas. The organisation Community Group provides support and resources across a variety of local community projects. The mobile phone company Orange have recently launched a mobile phone application to make local volunteering easier.

3              Badly Organised and Run ?

Wonder who makes all these bad decisions, convinced you can do it better – consider becoming a Local Councillor, or perhaps just supporting your existing one. If you have links with your local school, hospital or some other organisation consider becoming a School Governor or other public appointee. Some people might relish the challenge of becoming a local Police Community Support Officer.

4              No Sense of Vitality ?

Make the most of your local economy, use local shops and facilities as much as possible. Some areas operate a local loyalty card scheme, and a few even use their own local money. Support your local farmer’s market or farm shop, as well as any independent cinemas, bookshops and restaurants. Wherever possible lend your support to businesses or events that support and encourage local distinctiveness. A number of organisations such as Common Ground, offer support to a range of distinctiveness initiatives.

5              No Greenery or Nature ?

Contact your local Council about tree planting, the charity Trees for Cities may also be able to offer support. The Conservation Foundation support a variety of local environmental initiatives  including tree surveys and garden tool donation. Green Space aims to involve communities more in their local parks and green spaces, and the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers or Groundwork may be able to coordinate volunteers for agreed projects. You may also want to join a community gardening project or sign-up for an allotment with your Council.

6              Never Anything Going On ?

There might be more going on than you think. Many websites list local events including the BBC, Timeout, List and your local Council’s What’s-On page. If you’ve the energy to organise an event yourself you Council may be able to assit, from a village fete or Street Party to an Oxjam concert.


Photo by Richard Smith