The night before last night, about midnight, I heard a clunk clunk on the cat’s plate near the front door. I had a peek into the dark and saw the outline of a roly poly hedgehog, with feet and snout in the trough. Last night, about midnight, I heard the clunk clunk again, and there was the hedgehog back for more of the very slim pickings left by the cat.
For me, the return of the hedgehogs marks the beginning of summer. I love seeing and hearing them in the night garden. They can be very vocal. I also like to wonder if it is the same hogs returning each year. I shouldn’t really like them because they are an introduced pest, but I can’t help myself. I lay the blame for my environmentally incorrect liking at the feet of Beatrix Potter and Mrs Tiggy- Winkle. Besides, I am sure they control the rampant snail population in my garden. That can’t be a bad thing, except for the snails, of course.
The hedgehog reminded me of an article I read a few weeks ago in our daily newspaper, The Press. The article said that a Mr Robert Wilkin, the first President of the Canterbury Agricultural and Pastoral Association, was responsible for introducing hedgehogs to Canterbury. In a letter to the Timaru Herald in 1883 he wrote, “I received 6 (hedgehogs) from England in December 1881, and turned them out into my garden, but they soon strayed away.” The hedgehogs travelled aboard the ship the Waimate and their journey from England took 3 months.
The idea of those 6 little creatures being gathered up from some corner of an English garden, placed on a ship, and sent across the oceans to a strange, new land, amazes me. Were they seasick? What did they make of no longer being on terra firma, or were they in a happy state of blissfully ignorant hibernation throughout the journey? When they put their feet on New Zealand soil for the first time, did they wonder if they had “died and gone to heaven?” A friend pointed out to me, the hedgehogs obviously weren’t fazed by their new environment because they busily set up establishing their own new colony.
And one of their descendants is now happily ensconced in my home several hundred kilometres from their original landing place. Hoggers of hedges the hedgehogs may be but that hasn’t stopped them from being remarkable voyagers and explorers. Not for this lot, the domesticity of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle.