Head Gardener, Celia Simpson, tells the story of how five very prickly friends came to be new residents of Jane Austen's Garden.
"Last summer, a lady and a gentleman came into Jane Austen's Garden and enquired as to whether there were any hedgehogs that lived here.
I told them that there had been hedgehogs here in the past but not recently. I used to find their scats in the garden, but I had not seen any for at least three years.
The lady asked if we would be interested in re-homing rescued hedgehogs that had been living at a local wildlife centre. I said "yes please", as the garden here is quite large and joins to neighbouring gardens through the village.
In early October of last year, I received a phone call from 'Hedgehog Rescue'. They were calling to say that they had three hedgehogs, two males and a female, ready for us to collect.
I went to the Rescue on a Friday (my working day in Chawton). The hedgehogs each came with a cardboard box, all filled to the brim with hay. When back at the Museum, my colleague Gill and I found a suitable place to put the three hedgehog boxes, under a large Viburnum tinus shrub. We set up a feeding station with two dishes filled with 'Spike' hedgehog biscuits and fresh water. We put a large piece of polythene over all three boxes and released the hogs from their boxes as it got dark.
We were told we had to house, feed and water the hedgehogs for two weeks after their arrival in the Garden. However, after two weeks had passed, we were then given a further two female hedgehogs by Hedgehog Rescue, so after that extra two weeks was up, we removed the boxes and the hay went on the compost bin. The water dish remains under the Virburnum shrub, clean and with fresh water.
So we now have five hedgehogs in the garden! We have not seen them at all since they arrived here, which we hope must be good news!"
- Celia Simpson, Head Gardener