The first book I ever wrote was a picture book about kittens. I sent it to a publisher who liked it very much; only they couldn't publish it because they already had enough books about cats on their list. The editor asked if I could write about something else. So I did. I wrote a book called Hedgehog's Apple. It was the story of a hedgehog, trying to find an apple for his tea.
The editor liked that story too; only there was a problem. Picture books are expensive to publish and rely on co-editions, foreign editions of the book. This particular company worked closely with a publisher in America who wasn't interested in books on hedgehogs, as they weren't a native species.
I immediately sacked hedgehog and threw away his apple. Then I hired a squirrel. The book (about Rufus going out to find some acorns for tea) became An Acorn for Tea. It published in America as Sara Squirrel and the Lost Acorns.
I like hedgehogs. I was sad about getting rid of Rufus but not tragically so. Recently however, I was shocked to learn that hedgehog numbers are in sharp decline. The BBC's Michaela Strachan, co-presenter of Springwatch, wrote in this week's Radio Times, that 'Hedgehogs are declining at the same rate as tigers,' and 'they are in critical danger, particularly in London.' She goes on to say that if we don't do anything about it then hedgehogs will be gone in ten years.
Hedgehogs need a huge amount of space to forage in - an area the size of TWO football pitches. Urban hedgehogs are often unable to travel such large distances partly because of garden fences blocking their way.
And here's where we can help. If anyone with a garden could make a small hole under their fence it will allow hedgehogs the freedom to roam and find food.
It's such a small thing to do so please help if you can. Better still, ask your neighbour to do the same. Imagine a Britain without the hedgehog. That would be tragic!