I knew it would be a busy time, running up to The Day of the Hedgehog. But I had not counted on the extra impetus the hedgehog would receive from a bumbling MP speaking in the House of Commons in an adjournment debate on 10th November.

The day before I had been busy briefing the Defra Minister, Rory Stewart, in anticipation of Oliver Colvile’s statement. Stewart was sharp-whitted and keen to learn. I explained how the hedgehog was threatened in two different populations – rural and urban. How rural hedgehogs were suffering from a lack of food and shelter – and urban from a fragmented and diminished habitat. Yes, badgers are part of the problem, but it is wrong-headed to ‘blame’ them as many in his party are keen to do.

The debate began with bumbling … and some rather feeble attempts at humour. But at least it got the hedgehog being discussed in parliament for the first time since 1566. Here is the transcript from Hansard (scroll down to the end) – and here is a link to the video of the event. Perhaps most significant to me was the fact that I have now been mentioned in parliament, recorded in Hansard – and referred to as ‘eccentric’! Who would have thought?

This debate sparked off a mini-media-tornado and I got strapped into a studio in BBC Oxford the next day as part of the ‘General News Service’ – a system whereby all the local radio stations around the country can book an interview with one person – by the end of the day I had done 13 interviews … the last one from the offices of my son’s choir … and on being overheard it was said I sounded like I was on ‘Just a Minute’ …. I knew I had little time, I knew that if they asked a question it would just waste what time there was … so I just spoke. All the time promoting the up and coming event of the year – The Day of the Hedgehog!

Just to add to the excitement, the day before the Day – the Friday I was heading up to Telford – I got a call to be on BBC Politics – BBC2 – first time in ages I have done the solo TV studio – and so disconcerting, knowing that the people who are talking to you can see you, but you cannot see them …

And no, this is not a studio on top of South Park (for those familiar with Oxford, the backdrop must always generate a little concern …) The interview went okay, I think – though Zoe Williams, from the Guardian, was on as a pundit and proved herself to be embarrassingly thick … Here is a link to my moment of fame (52 minutes is where it starts to get interesting)!

The Day of the Hedgehog started, for me, with the publication of something a little different – a feature not by me, but about me, in the Daily Telegraph – I had had a wonderful time with the journalist Martin Fletcher back in August, going to a WI meeting, linking up with researcher Lucy Clarke and spending time at Vale Wildlife Rescue.

And the actual meeting? Over 300 people had a brilliantly managed day (I was not part of that side of things – much respect to those at the PTES and BHPS who did so much work beforehand to make it work so well) – and I got to jump up onto the stage and thank the speakers before welcoming on the next ones. All of whom kept to time (something I really appreciate) – all of whom were fascinating, articulate and entertaining. We could not have had a better gathering of people. And around this, I managed to sell over 60 books! So all in all, well worth the time and effort I think – would be great to hear from you if you were there and either agree with me, or have concerns … and if you were not there … would you like us to organise another ‘Day’?


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!

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!

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

The paperback for The Beauty in the Beast is out – and I am thrilled. The cover design, by Art Director Liane Payne, is innovative and wonderful (she also did the hardback cover) – I heard that she was handed my manuscript to pass on to someone in her team but was so taken by it she kept it to herself. Well, I am a big fan of hers. When you have read the book you will notice all the detail on the cover has been taken from minute details within!

But perhaps the most thrilling thing about the paperback is the foreword.

When I was at school there a few guitarists who really shook my world – Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page and David Gilmour, for example – but there was one who really stood out. I wanted to sound like this guitarist even though the band he played for were a little bit unfashionable (at the time). I never managed to sound like him and then someone (probably a neighbour) stole my electric guitar and amp. I also never thought I would meet him … though I did get a quote from him for A Prickly Affair, as he had helped raise money to halt the ridiculous hedgehog cull in the Uists.

Then last year I was asked to help with the compering at the ‘Wildlife Rocks‘ event in Guildford. The wildlife extravaganza was the brain child of my idol … Brian May. Turned out I was going to be doing all the compering – introducing and thanking around 24 ‘acts’ – and at the end Brian took a copy of my book and said he would write a few lines to help. These few lines expanded into this call to action in defence of our wildlife. It is also a  rather pleasing endorsement (I blushed when I read it!).

So now – for you (and you have to promise to go and buy the book if you read this!) … my royal endorsement … (this really is the closest I will ever get to the Queen!)


‘Hugh Warwick’s book The Beauty in the Beast comes at an opportune moment. It is a gentle weapon of war against those who threaten the well-being and the very existence of our precious and entirely innocent wild animals. It is timely because we all now stand at a crossroads which will determine how the human race goes forward – either in harmony with the bountiful riches of life on this blue planet, or selfishly and ignorantly, plunging the world into a sterile abyss in which humans have obliterated the rest of life on Earth.

Books that encourage us to appreciate and love the natural world are more important than ever.  We have become so far removed from the magic of Nature that we need strong reminders to reconnect us. The concerns may strike us when we take a moment to wonder what kind of a world our grandchildren will inherit.  We may also begin to be concerned about ecology, the balance of populations and the survival of species; biodiversity has at least become a word we are all familiar with.  But a true enlightenment only comes when we realise that our concerns must go much deeper than survival of species.  It is when we realise that every single creature on Earth matters that we come up against the shocking discovery that the human race has veered horribly off the tracks.

Britain, in particular, prides itself as a nation of animal lovers, yet we have turned a blind eye to a mountain of cruelty and abuse for hundreds of years.  In the present day, where the Internet enables us to see into every shady corner of human activity, there is no longer any excuse for allowing cruelty to continue – this applies to all creatures, whether human or not.

My own love of Nature has always been part of my make-up but it was a gradual growth of understanding of how cruel we really are to other species that led me to take up arms against the abuse of animals. Along with a consortium of animal-aware campaigns I have been working for the past few years on ridding the countryside of the inexcusable behaviours that are justified by ‘tradition’, or blinkered views of farming husbandry which place the value of a wild animal at zero. We who work in Animal Welfare are determined that wild animals and all creatures shall have a voice, in public affairs and eventually at government level, whereas at the present time they have absolutely no representation.

Outdated toxic views of the world lead to the blood-hunting of foxes, stags and hares, to badger-baiting, dog-fighting, and to an impending massacre of Britain’s most ancient family-oriented species, the British badger, in the so-called ‘badger cull’. There is no suggestion that this is a cull in the proper meaning of the word – for the health of the herd – it is simply a random slaughter of mostly healthy animals.  All kinds of attempts are made to justify these tragic aberrations by a government that has lost all touch with the real needs and wishes of the residents of these islands, human and non-human.  It is our job to restore decency and sanity to the acts of our species and our nation for the good of those who are at present abused, for the good of the planet and, in the end, for our own welfare too.  The world will be a destitute place when all that is left is a landscape overpopulated with humans and devoid of any other life.

Hugh writes not just about the power of compassion – of people who do not want to see wildlife killed – but also about the science, which roundly condemns this behaviour, and ethically why it is simply wrong. Hard decisions have to be taken as we try to balance the immediate perceived needs of humans with the last remnants of our natural world.  But the evidence is there for all to see: that no good can come of the killing.

Any hope for a decent future depends on us acting in harmony with the life around us, not in conflict with it.

This is why The Beauty in the Beast is an important book. Gently wise, the facts are delightfully delivered with a good dose of humour. Warwick gives us every possible reason to fall in love all over again with the natural world; it is a love which, in the coming crucial months and years, will inspire us to fight for a compassionate world.’

Brian May, January 2013


Wholehearted nature

I was sitting, sifting shingle through my fingers on the beach at Charmouth. This is not an unreasonable pastime – right on the ‘Jurassic Coast’ of Dorset, it is a prime spot for fossil-hunters. And I have found one of the best ammonites I have seen anywhere, museums included, along the shore.

The sky was grey, the wind stiff and the sea like pewter; when it was not curling into ‘crash and shhhhh’. And I was alone. The more sensible elements of my family had found a slightly more sheltered spot to hop across boulders. But it is here I find myself as close to meditating as I get. Absorbed in the quest for patterns; the regular curve of ridges that indicates an ammonite or the smooth needle of a belemnite. Time can fly by with my head down; eyes focussed on the myriad stones, evolving and revolving into sand. But this time I was distracted. Someone else was braving the elements with their spaniel. Read More →

Hedgehogs are getting everywhere – if only it was beyond the pages of papers and magazines. There has been a veritable flurry of hedgehoggery – that has kept me, and the teams at the BHPS and the PTES, very busy for the past couple of weeks.

The news that sparked all the attention was the disturbing data from two long-running surveys that revealed a fall in numbers of hedgehogs considerably in excess of what we had previously thought.

While Mammals on Roads showed a 32% decline in the last ten years, the long-running Living with Mammals survey indicated a decline of 37% between 2003 and 2012. The declines are not uniform across the country, with a spread of between 3% and 5% disappearing each and every year. Read More →

There are few people who have the capacity to antagonise me as much as Jeremy Clarkson … and it was with real delight that I happened upon him receiving a custard pie in the face a few years ago … 

Fortunately I had my camera ready. So it was with very mixed feelings I found that he was to be presenting Have I Got News For You on BBC 1. They were going to be featuring the newsletter of the British Hedgehog Preservation Society in the ‘missing words’ round – but how would our wonderful creature fare at the hands of this objectionable buffoon?

The iPlayer copy of the show will not be up for ever, so have a look now … and if pressed for time, skip along to 25 minutes in – and find that not only did the hedgehogs get a good mention (along with Ann Widdecombe, who, coincidentally, I also caught on camera getting a custard pie in the face) 

Ann is a great champion of hedgehogs, the pie came 12 years ago following some rather unpleasant commentary she had given about asylum seekers. Having met her I have been impressed by her deep love of animals – and it would not be hard to imagine her donning a balaclava and heading off to the nearest abuser with ‘reconstruction’ in mind.

But that is an aside … one of the missing headline clips they used was from an article I had written! Which was essentially based on this blog from last year. “How can we get hedgehogs and whisky into the same thing?” I asked … with a blender, Clarkson retorted … I smiled, felt guilty about smiling, and then remembered his moment with the custard pie and felt better!

I often get to write book reviews on new(ish) releases, but was a few months late coming to Kathleen Jamie’s new collection of essays, Sightlines.

When I was preparing to write A Prickly Affair, my agent, Patrick Walsh, suggested I read Jamie’s previous offering in this form, Findings. I was left feeling nervous that he was expecting me to reach such a level of precision and beauty. Luckily I am in no way tempted to ape her style – her words capture scenes with a high-resolution camera – whether it is the weathered bones of whales or the forensic examination of human organs, she deftly paints scenes with apparent ease.

Her run around the island of Rona, chasing the fins of killer whales, had me reading at a similar breathtaking pace, just to keep up. But the moment that I thrilled most was when, talking about whale-bone iconography (and if you don’t believe it exists, I suggest you read the book) she says. “Toads were said to have a jewel in their heads; render down a whale and what do you find but the arch of a church door.” Just that passing mention was enough – I have come across so few people familiar with the mythology of the toad-stone, it was a delight.

And to cap it all, a few hours later I was gifted a visit from my very own jewel of a toad – Gordon Maclellan, aka Creeping Toad – environmental educator and story-teller beyond compare (and character in The Beauty in the Beast). It was thanks to Gordon that I am now adorned with my own personal toad – he is becoming a work of art himself, a personal bestiary on his skin – and there were new things to show.

Which is all rather delightfully circular, because the next book I am to review is the wondrous creation by Caspar Henderson, ‘The Book of Barely Imagined Beings, A 21st Century Bestiary‘ – which has as its first chapter, a brilliant digression on the improbable axolotl.