Hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus) are now an endangered species in the UK, predominantly due to loss of habitat and the devastating decline of their major food source, invertebrates. Cambridge Hedgehogs was formed in 2019, a registered charity (Charity Commission 1183108) with the objective of promoting preservation of this species through public education and awareness campaigns.

A new initiative for the charity this year is the Cambridge Hedgehogs Churchyard Project, which will focus on enhancing the existing biodiversity at the churchyards of St Andrew’s in Cherry Hinton and our own St Andrew’s in Chesterton. Funding for the project has been provided from Cambridge Water’s PEBBLE Fund, which supports projects that promote biodiversity in the local area.

Both churchyards are large, historic areas of green space in the heart of Cambridge, comprising a combined area of over 2 hectares. The biodiverse grasslands and protected trees frame a serene place of reflection for the community and the range of species has gained both churchyards recognition as ‘City Wildlife Sites’ following surveys by the Wildlife Trust and Cambridge City Council.

Based on data from the Big Hedgehog Map, it is known that hedgehogs have been seen in the vicinity of these churchyards. Hedgehogs roam up to a mile each night and these sites could provide useful areas of habitat and food for this endangered species. By sympathetically enhancing the existing biodiversity of the churchyards, the project aims to encourage more invertebrates, the main food source of hedgehogs, and provide suitable habitat for nesting and hibernation. Whilst benefiting the local hedgehog population, the aim is also to have a broader positive impact on biodiversity in the churchyards. The City Council have offered to create a long-term management plan for each site to ensure biodiversity is maintained.

The churchyard holds deep emotional significance for many people in our local community and it is important that enhancing wildlife areas does not detract from the primary role of the churchyard as a place of remembrance and mourning. The project team will ensure that visitors to the churchyard are informed as the project progresses and that they are receptive to any comments from the local community.

The project will incorporate three key strands

  • ecological surveying
  • habitat enhancement
  • community engagement

Ecological surveys

The plan is to survey the sites for hedgehogs before and after our interventions using thermal cameras and camera traps. This will give us an estimate of existing population numbers in the churchyard and help us to measure whether our interventions have had a positive impact.

We will also be encouraging members of the local community to record any local hedgehog sightings on the Big Hedgehog Map, a national recording scheme hosted by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society.

Habitat enhancement

The plan is to create hedgehog-friendly habitats such as log piles and compost bins and provide wooden hedgehog houses as safe places for hibernation and nesting. Much of the perimeter of the churchyard is left to grow naturally and we plan to enhance these areas to encourage invertebrates, the main food source for hedgehogs. We also propose additional ‘no-mow’ areas within the rest of the churchyard to create additional areas for invertebrates. Such areas will be identified in conjunction with the City Council.

Hedgehogs drink a lot of water for their size and access to fresh water is crucial for their survival. As Cambridge is the driest city in the UK, hedgehogs really benefit from provision from supplemental water during the summer. Cambridge Hedgehogs have provided a hedgehog water dish in the churchyard and we will need to establish a rota of volunteers to fill the dish regularly with fresh water.

We also want to minimise any potential dangers to hedgehogs in the churchyard. This would include providing drain covers for deeper drains; checking for hedgehogs before strimming denser areas of grass/bramble; and removing any loose netting or items of litter that hedgehogs could get tangled in.

Community awareness and engagement

We want community groups, individuals and corporate volunteering groups to get involved with litter picking, habitat building and planting. We believe it is very important for children to learn more about their environment and hope to engage local schools and young families in the project.

We hope to provide more information for visitors to the churchyard about its status as a City Wildlife Site and to promote what we have done to help hedgehogs and improve the biodiversity of the site.

The plan is to hold a community event at the churchyard at the end of the project, to showcase the work done and raise awareness of how to help hedgehogs more widely.

We will post updates on the project on this website. Do look out for upcoming volunteering opportunities and special events in the What’s On section.

Cambridge Hedgehogs will also be regularly updating the wider community through their social media channels and quarterly newsletter, and will invite other community groups to publicise the project through their own channels. See their website for more details: www.cambridgehedgehogs.org

If you would like to help with the project, please email grace@cambridgehedgehogs.org.