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Celebrating National Hedgehog Day

In the Soulistic Wheel of the Year, the month of February encompasses the energetic quality of rejuvenation. We see it everywhere – snowdrops and early daffodils are beginning to blossom, the first catkins are dancing in the hazel branches and the chaffinches are becoming flirtatious in the cherry trees. When Nature rejuvenates, the energy is palpable stirring us to plant our own seeds for the year to come, not just in the garden, but in our imagination as we consider what it is we want to express creatively.

Rejuvenation has its own timescale; in Nature the seasons trigger the germination and blossoming of new life, but when things get badly out of balance, it can take many seasons to rejuvenate fully. Like my agapanthus that was scythed down by biting easterly winds and took three years to flower again, our own rejuvenation, especially from ill health, may take a lot longer than a season or a year to emerge. It is important to trust the timing and not push for an outcome.

When my parents bought this house about ten years ago, the garden was immaculate, with not a plant out of place nor a weed to be seen, but it felt somehow lifeless – like something was missing – and Mum and I felt disconnected from it but couldn’t quite work out why. In the end, we realised that the previous owners had used herbicides and pesticides to achieve their desired look, at the expense of healthy ecosystems. Being lifelong organic gardeners, this came as something of a shock to us, and it took several years of nurturing, mulching, composting and tending to bring the energy of the garden back into balance. At first, we saw blackbirds and thrushes on the lawn probing for worms, then a frog or two started flopping into the pond, then a huge black toad graced us with his presence, whom we called, appropriately, Toadflax; and – oh joy – a black adder too, a true slithering beauty of a snake.

But last year, we knew the garden had truly rejuvenated. We’d seen the signs: a two-inch black tapered pellet of poo by the asparagus bed, and then another on the path; and then one summer’s evening whilst I was out late watering and enjoying the peace and quiet, I heard a snuffling in the hedge, and then a rustling of leaves and more snuffles and then, there she was: a fairly large and incredibly noisy hedgehog – I’m not sure if the hog was female, but it felt like she was. With all that snuffling, I now know why they used to be called hedge pigs.

It felt like such an honour that this creature should visit our garden because unbelievably, hedgehogs are rare now; we even built her a little hedgehog house, which she chose to ignore. In the end, we gave it to a pregnant mama slowworm, but forgot to take the 'To Let' sign down. But more than this, if the garden had not fully rejuvenated and come back into balance, none of these incredible creatures would be here at all. No slug pellets, no chemicals, no tidiness, lots of weeds and nettles, mindful maintenance... That’s all it takes in a garden to encourage the wildlife back. It can be done, it takes time – but in the end, the gifts of rejuvenation are countless.

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