HG Embankment

Access ramp to the former station office.

Credit:Hedgehog Photo We have hedgehogs in Hither Green- a legacy of having so much green space, lots of family gardens and of course the river. We’ve been asked by The RHS to write a piece about encouraging hedgehogs at home and here it is!.

The Hither Green Railway embankment is not public space- while it can be seen from the street, there is no right of public access, I think this is one of the chief reasons we have hedgehogs. Despite commuters rushing to and from the Station, and cars whooshing by- the embankments remains quiet and undisturbed.

HG Embankment6

Bluebells and cow parseley

HG Embankment5

Local volunters

We are a Network Rail licensed community group and we look after two embankments at our local Station where we ‘conserve’ rather than garden; we’re encouraging the weeds and wild growth which people often remove from our gardens at home.

There are distinct areas of habitat providing a variety of spaces for local and passing wildlife to colonise and visit- everything is interconnected- more plants, more insects= more birds, more mammals. There are heavily wooded sections, where little light penetrates, there are open sections of canopy which encourages grasses and woodland flowering plants like umbellifers- Where we have cleared rampant bramble and sycamore seedlings along the fence line on parts of the embankment slope, cow parsley and wild carrot cover much of the site from late April and through May.

HG Embankment4

Hither Green volunteers

This is a large space and volunteer time is limited, so over the years we have tackled the area in sections. As we have made our way along the embankment, we have created piles of sticks, twigs and leaves. When recently we had dead, potentially dangerous and overhanging trees removed and pollarded- the tree surgery team left all resulting lumber on site- large and small logs, twigs, leaves. We have kept much of the bramble for protection, for forage and as nesting sites for ground nesting birds. Much of the tree canopy cover is provided by sycamores and we noticed that where tree and shrub cover is more varied , there is more wildlife- so we remove most of the new sycamore saplings.

embankent_Planting2

Woodland_Trust_trees

Working with the Woodland Trust,local residents have planted up small copses of attractive,berry and nut forming trees and shrubs- oak, rowan, hazel, hawthorn,bkackthorn and crab apple. We are also planting a wildflower meadow with a specially selected ‘woodland edge’ seed mix.

open_gardens_6_2015So, our advice for encouraging hedgehogs at home! As well as the manicured lawns and pristine borders try to have an undisturbed, un-curated ‘wild’ section of garden. Ease up on the clearing up- In your wild section have plenty of leaves and sticks, piles of straw, hay and logs- place it all behind sheds or compost heaps if necessary. It’s all material for the creation of nests for birds as well as hedgehogs and to encourage insects like caterpillars and beetles which in turn encourage hedgehogs.

Have a nut/ berry bearing tree- there is lots of choice with possibilities for small urban gardens too.

Concern about slugs and snails, yes they will love the piles of leaves, buthedgehogs will hoover up slugs! No pellets or expensive nematodes necessary. Work with your neighbours- 2,3,4 gardens in a row would be a nice territory for a hedgehog. Try to leave gaps under fences, and grow mixed, fruiting hedges. And if If someone on your road has a pond- even better!

Anne, HGCA