I was visiting my mother this weekend and found myself browsing the bookshelf in the old playroom – and while much of the evidence of childish times has gone there was a block of books that stood out. Blue Peter Annuals from 1972 to 1980. My first book, their ninth, was a complete treat for me as a six year old. I thought the world of John Noakes and Shep.
Flicking through these Annuals I found I recognised so much – though why they insisted on putting Valerie Singleton in such odd period costumes escapes me. Blue Peter was a very important part of my childhood.
So, can you imagine the tremor of excitement when the wonderful folk at Firebird PR (who do so much to help the People’s Trust for Endangered Species) told me that Blue Peter might be interested in doing a hedgehog feature and that I might be involved?
I add the ‘mights’ as I am well aware of the slippery nature of Auntie Beeb – not everything that is promised comes to light … but the mights grew stronger and stronger. I secured some stunt hedgehogs from Hedgehog Bottom Rescue, near Reading (thanks Gill); Firebird found some willing school children and I ironed my shirt (this was getting serious).
To prime myself I watched an episode on i-player – oh my … how young …
But unfortunately the children have aged – the show is now aimed at 10 yrs + … so my wonderful duo of Mati and Pip were too young to be part of the show.
And then last Friday it really happened. The Blue Peter team were great – the weather was toe-teasingly cold, I was very glad I pilfered my wife’s down jacket – and the presenter, Naomi Wilkinson – showed how that sort of work should be done. The interview segment was focussed on Hedgehog Street – how to make gardens hedgehog friendly and interconnected.
Then a wonderful thatcher called Kit stepped in to help Milly and Joe make a hedgehog house. Which then lead up to the finale – where we placed the hedgehog house under a big bush and I introduced Gill’s ‘stunt ‘hogs’ to the show.
These two hedgehogs had been in her care for a while and will be released when the weather is a little milder. We made the point that these were ‘stunt’ hogs and that hedgehogs should not be out in the day … people always complain, but I really think it is important that we seduce people with images of hedgehogs, and then, when they are drawn in, we can educate them.
As I placed the hedgehogs in front of the newly made hedgehog house I declared that, obviously, they would not go into it right away. At that, Rogan, one of the hedgehogs, took a look at me and decided to prove me wrong, by making a bee-line for the entrance tunnel and disappearing.
This resulted in general amazement – I was thrilled! And then, a little later, we took the back of the box and propped a night-vision camera in the opening, allowing them to film Rogan entering the hedgehog house from a different angle. What a very excellent stunt ‘hog.
I am so excited about this – the short film will be broadcast on Thursday 9th February at 1745 on CBBC, and repeated on Friday 10th February on BBC1 at 1630. I am excited because I will be on Blue Peter, obviously, but I am mainly excited because this has been a great opportunity to talk to a different audience about the importance of making your garden not just hedgehog friendly, but wildlife friendly. What is good for hedgehogs is good for so much else. And our project – run in conjunction with the PTES and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society – Hedgehog Street – is such a great way to get people and their communities involved.
It is possible, however, that the main thrill has come from this …
I now have a Blue Peter badge … something that the six-year old me, looking at the wonderful John Noakes doing derring-do, dreamt of earning.