I volunteered, together with my husband, to do a hedgehog tunnel survey for Hog Watch. The section of land chosen was within Cawthorne Park Wood, a 265 acre privately owned wood. The owner kindly took us on a pre survey tour of the woodland and also gave us a brief history of the site. The area is of archaeological interest having an industrial past connected to iron workings dating back possibly to medieval times. Some areas have been mined extensively for iron ore through the use of bell pits and a few of these are still clearly visible.
The woodland originally would have been coppiced for charcoal to fire the bloomery furnaces although relatively little of this remains. The woodland at present is predominantly a conifer plantation, closely and uniformly planted post second world war. The owner is gradually taking out much of the softwood (conifers) and replacing it with broadleaf species and these will be more beneficial to wildlife and over time should increase biodiversity. He has also put up a range of bird and bat boxes. Where trees have been selectively thinned, a carpet of undergrowth has sprung up. There is an abundance of foxgloves whose seeds must have lain dormant for decades.
The section of woodland allocated for the survey was adjoining some agricultural land. Three of the tunnels were sited within close proximity to this boundary and the remainder along the network of rides within the woodland.
On the first day, the first nine tunnels we checked were blank other than quite a few slugs. However, in the final tunnel, we discovered not only footprints, but hedgehog prints, which we had hardly dared to hope for. On the second day, we had mice prints but nothing else. On the third, fourth and fifth days, we had hedgehog and mice prints. The tunnels which had yielded the prints were either next to the agricultural land or within close proximity.
Cawthorne Park Wood
It appears that both the mice and hedgehog(s) are present in the section of the woodland we surveyed, but only active around the woodland edge. This could possibly change as the wood is gradually converted to a mixed species woodland with more open glades created within.
On a personal note, although the survey has taken a big commitment of time, it has been very pleasurable walking through the woodland every day and exciting seeing what footprints turn up. It has been a very rewarding experience for us and also good to know that the data we have obtained will help to build a picture of where hedgehogs are in our local area.