Oxford Festival of Nature

It is here again – and I have been reminded of the risk of freelance life – saying YES to too much! But the Oxford Festival of Nature is the perfect opportunity to further my plans for global domination – or at least converting people from ‘likers’ to ‘lovers’ – I want to drag people from couches and out into the woods – no more clean and remote observation of other people in the wild, but a down and dirty shared experience.

There are two talks – and I am interested to see who wins … we have BBOWT organising an event at the North Oxford Community Centre on Thursday 4th June where I will be talking about the wildlife eccentrics I have met – the wonderful encounters that made up the stories in The Beauty in the Beast. Of course I am merely observing the eccentrics being quite normal myself!

And on Wednesday 10th June, Waterstones have got me in to talk about hedgehogs – now they have not got me on a website yet, but there is a poster!

Which will get most people along?

While both of these talks are a great way for me to enthuse people, it is the real connection on Saturday 13th June at the Natural History Museum that gets me most excited … it might seem like I am just getting kids to stroke a piece of taxidermy and make some clay hedgehogs – but those moments of connection can really make a difference. I have just been at London’s Natural History Museum doing a day of talking – and the number of times it was the children who were leading the parents into a greater connection with nature was heart-warming. They were willing to come and touch my stuffed hedgehog, find out what the spines are made from and how many there are.

Some of my favourite results from previous festivals of nature have come weeks and months later, when I have met families again, by chance, and the children have told me about the fun they had and how they still have the hedgehog they made. These moments are some of the very best wildlife moments I get … who needs to be in a sweaty landrover tracking lions in Africa? Come and find a real wild life on your doorstep.

Come and see a talk or meet me and make a hedgehog!

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NO swearing and NO politics

I had fun yesterday, I got invited on to Chris Evans morning show on BBC Radio 2 to talk about hedgehogs (why did I even bother to say what it was about?) – the resulting 4 minutes is, at least for the moment, available HERE. I long ago realised that if one pauses for breath then the interviewer will tend to interrupt and ask questions. So Chris does not say much, but he does allow me to plug Hedgehog Awareness Week – a very good thing.

I am NOT allowed to mention politics, which is a shame as every other damn programme on the radio mentions politics. But balance is important and it is well known that a sway in the hedgehog vote could change things dramatically. If only they got up early enough … we all know that hedgehogs vote green.

I also got to advertise my up-coming show at the Brighton Fringe where I am sharing the stage with Jules Howard and we are cooking up a show called ‘Sex and the animal kingdom.’

Jules interviewed me for his book, ‘Sex on Earth’. It was fascinating to be on the receiving end for once – so often I have turned up in people’s lives and tried to capture a little of them in print.

“…he is largely as I imagined him – erudite, energetic and wonderfully passionate about everyday nature, especially his beloved hogs. He invites me through the door and into his world: a crowded living room, littered with hedgehog souvenirs, pictures, posters and bookshelf after bookshelf of interesting books, many of which, unsurprisingly, are about hedgehogs. Within minutes he has me standing outside in his garden, holding up a bit of cheese in my hand for a robin he has habituated…”

Before I had got on air the producer of the show had said to me ‘there is to be no searing and no politics’ – so when Chris Evans closed our chat by asking me for a joke I was immediately caught … all the funny in Brighton is going to be terribly rude featuring the likes of George the Hedgehog or Bogor!

Luckily I had a joke I had stolen from a chicken …

Why did the hedgehog cross the road, jump up and down in a muddy puddle and run back again?

Because she was a dirty double crossing hedgehog!

See you in Brighton, I hope!

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David & Goliath … the return

The British Hedgehog Preservation Society is only a small charity but seems to be able to hit above its weight when it comes to challenging some of the biggest multinational corporations on the planet. First they took down McDonalds, purveyors of ground up cows to the masses. Now they have stood up to the giant bird-killer, KFC – and won.

What is this great fight you may wonder … well first the cow-killers and then the chicken-slaughterers were found to have made their ice-cream and milkshake containers just the perfect shape for hedgehogs to insert an inquisitive snout as they search for fat and sugar rich supplement to the usual fare of macro-invertebrates.

But, due to the wonderful spines that protect the hedgehog from so much harm, there was a tendency for the poor hedgehogs to get their heads stuck in the pots. This video shows a lucky one that was rescued, however many are not and end up dying.

Now KFC have joined McDonalds in redesigning the pots to stop this happening – and this is a great and wonderful thing. Perhaps surprisingly it took years of negotiation – but the job is done and shows how the determined work of a few people who care can make a great deal of difference.

But … while it is easy to blame the corporate meat-machines that are these companies, there are other people who need to be tackled as well. First, you don’t need to eat this stuff – it is not good for you on so many levels, right up to the global impact of climate change that is driven in no small part by the absurd death-fetish of the casual meat-eaters. Just don’t use those shops – then it is simple.

And if you must indulge your cravings for pulverised and reconstituted flesh … use your brain … do not drop litter. It harms wildlife. Your laziness in not disposing of it properly¬†kills animals. I have been noticing the vast accumulations of rubbish along the road network this year – I am not sure if this is just because I am paying more attention (new book is related to the subject) – or whether this is particularly bad – but the amount of litter is heart-breaking and depressing. If we cannot be bothered to look after our own back-yard then the rest of the planet does not stand a chance.

For happier thoughts about hedgehogs … read my books!¬†

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  • Hugh Warwick holding a toad

  • Hugh Warwick is an ecologist and writer with a particular fondness for hedgehogs. His first book, A Prickly Affair, remains the only book to have accolades from both Jeanette Winterson and Ann Widdecombe on the cover. The Beauty in the Beast is published in May 2012 and takes him on a journey in search of other animals. And in November 2012 he returns to hedgehogs with a book about the iconography of the animal.

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