Our route into town passes two 17th Century thatched farmhouses. Nothing particularly unusual about that but these are farmhouses that have been swamped by development. Only the farmhouses themselves remain; their land, their original purpose, is long gone, a phantom history buried under roads, houses, gardens. They are curiosities, these farmhouses, fragments of the past clinging on in the present.
And there are more ghosts in this land. On a thread posted on the Wild About Britain forum, several people remarked how they hadn’t seen a hedgehog – not even a squashed one on the road – for several years. I haven’t seen one for years either. I used to see them in our local park occasionally, rooting around in the leaf-fall under the trees. At my parents’ house, there were hedgehogs in the garden almost every night. But no more. They are gone.
The British Hedgehog Preservation Society points to studies indicating that hedgehog numbers have plummeted by around 25% over the last decade alone. The reasons are various: loss of habitat, pesticides, the fracturing of foraging territories by walls and fences, road deaths.
So this charming and iconic creature, common when I was a child, is now endangered. It too is becoming a ghost and one day, unless we can reverse its decline, all we may have left of it will be fading memories and an archive of photographs, film footage and illustrated children’s books.