A TOWN council is raising awareness of hedgehogs by labelling their cutting machinery and educating their staff on the importance of looking out for the small prickly mammals when operating equipment.

Ross-on-Wye has a special ancient relationship with the cute but under threat animal, and is sometimes referred to by the name bestowed on it by the conquering Celts 1,500 years ago – ‘Ergyng’ or ’Land of The Hedgehog’.

The town was also later named Archenfield or ‘Land of Urchins’, another name for the hedgehog, which stuck until the town became known as Ross from the 16th century on.

Hedgehog emblems also exist on old family crests such as the Kyrles and Abrahalls, and today people can join the ‘Hedgehog Trail’ at St Mary’s churchyard.

And now the town council is seeking to protect its very own spiky icon by joining the British Hedgehog Preservation Society’s (BHPS) ‘Roll of Honour’ with more than 100 other organisations to become ‘hedgehog aware’ and protect its habitat.

Deputy clerk Carla Boyles said: “Our teams often carry out works in and around public parks and boundary hedges.

“This means that they tackle areas that would be the perfect habitat for hedgehogs and make every effort possible to not disturb them.’

Bright yellow ‘hedgehog awareness’ stickers, supplied by the BHPS, have been placed on essential machinery and it is hoped that the stickers will not only increase awareness of hedgehogs but lead to awareness of other wildlife during the cutting season and throughout general maintenance schedules.

“This is not only a sticker but a direct connection between species declines in urban areas and the small steps the public and small to large businesses can take to halt further declines in wildlife,” added the deputy clerk.

“As well as raising awareness of hedgehogs, which is the ancient emblem of the town, the council is also going that one step further by making the Town Cemetery at Tudorville ‘Hedgehog Friendly’.

“Several hedgehogs have been spotted in the area and to help them to continue to thrive, a hedgehog house, along with some food, has kindly been donated by Ross Garden Store, which will be installed before the hibernation season starts.”

The past decade has seen more than 50 per cent of rural hedgehogs disappear and a third from towns and cities, with only a million hedgehogs left, compared to an estimated 30 million in the 1950s.

In 2020, they joined the country’s ‘Red List of Critically Endangered Species’ and were officially declared vulnerable.

It is thought that the decline is mainly due to habitat and food loss, largely from large scale farming and fewer hedges in gardens.

Carla added: “I am pleased that the Town Council is able to support the hedgehog population in Ross, and wish to express my thanks to Ross Garden Store for helping us in our mission.”

For more information people can go to guide-to-helping-hedgehogs.pdf (britishhedgehogs.org.uk)