Tori Dee is an illustrator and designer who is inspired by British nature & wildlife. 

Autumn is such a lovely time of year, the boots and jumpers get brought out and dusted off, the leaves all turn beautiful shades of red and yellow and that nip in the air tells you winter is on the way; time for cosy nights by the fire and cracking out the mulled wine.  It’s also the time to harvest the fruit and veg people have been working hard to produce all summer and with harvesting comes the turnover of old plants ready for the new season.

A time of pruning, trimming, pulling and tidying up gardens, allotments, hedges and green spaces leads to collections of garden waste being left in nice big piles alongside the colourful mounds of swept or gathered leaves often ready for piling on the bonfire in November.

One of the UK’s most adorable residents loves to make the most of this time of year too.  Hedgehogs will happily make their home in piles of leaves and compost heaps at any time of year, but are more likely to start seeking shelter as the weather gets colder and there are more piles of flora and fauna to make cosy little nests in.  This is one unfortunate way many hedgehogs meet an unpleasant end during the autumn months.

Being nocturnal, it’s easy to forget that these prickly beasts are roaming around our gardens or allotments regularly and that they nestle down into warm toasty piles of leaves or compost during the day.  Turning over compost is part of the gardening process but a sleeping hedgehog can be severely or fatally injured by the stabbing of a garden fork.  Sadly a common injury seen in wildlife hospitals and veterinary surgeries across the country.

The other way these slug-eating garden helpers can meet their end, is when garden waste is burned or when preparations for bonfire night are made in advance.  Getting that big pyre set up and ready for November the 5th is great for us but allows Hedgehogs time to wriggle in and get settled down.

Some may be looking to hibernate by November and will snuggle into these wood piles and go into a deep sleep.  This means that when a bonfire is lit, the little hogs don’t wake up fast enough to make their escape and many of them will end up trapped under the bonfire and not making it out at all.

Hedgehogs are fantastic animals and the gardener’s night time helper; hoovering up slugs, snails and other garden pests throughout the growing season and beyond, giving our plants a chance to survive.  Let’s return the favour to them by making sure to check any collections of garden waste, leaves or bonfires before lighting or turning them, to ensure less of these precious creatures meet a nasty end this autumn.