Cambridge Hedgehogs Churchyard Project
The Cambridge Hedgehogs Churchyard Project was awarded a PEBBLE grant to enhance the existing biodiversity at the churchyards of St Andrew’s in Cherry Hinton and St Andrew’s in Chesterton.
Both churchyards are large, historic areas of green space in the heart of Cambridge, comprising a combined area of over two 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 as well as maintaining the primary role of the churchyard as a place of remembrance and mourning.
The project will be co-ordinated by the Cambridge Hedgehogs project team and will incorporate three key strands.
1. Ecological surveys
The sites will be surveyed for hedgehogs before and after the interventions using thermal cameras and camera traps, to give an estimate of existing population numbers in the churchyard and help measure whether the interventions have had a positive impact.
Members of the local community will also be encouraged to record any local hedgehog sightings on the Big Hedgehog Map, a national recording scheme hosted by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society.
2. Habitat enhancement
Hedgehog-friendly habitats will be created, such as log piles, compost bins and wooden hedgehog houses, as safe places for hibernation and nesting. Much of the perimeter of the churchyard is left to grow naturally and these areas will be enhanced to encourage invertebrates, the main food source for hedgehogs. There will be additional ‘no-mow’ areas within the rest of the churchyard to create additional areas for invertebrates.
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 a rota of volunteers will be established to fill the dish regularly with fresh water.
Potential dangers to hedgehogs will be minimised 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.
3. Community awareness and engagement
Community groups, individuals and corporate volunteering groups will be encouraged to get involved with litter picking, habitat building and planting. There will be opportunities for children to learn more about their environment through engagement with local schools and young families. A community event will be held at the churchyard at the end of the project, to showcase the work done and raise awareness of how to help hedgehogs more widely.
Large shallow water bowls are now provided under the water taps in each churchyard.
The 5th Cambridge Brownies kindly helped to build log piles and site some new hedgehog houses in the churchyard in Cherry Hinton.
Here's a little glimpse of a spiky hedgehog snuffling through the churchyard of St Andrews Church, Chesterton, in November 2020.
If you would like to help with the project, please contact Grace at Cambridge Hedgehogs.