I was really delighted that the story of this painting was featured on this months DRUID CAST podcast read out beautifully by Damh the Bard. I’ve been listening to this podcast for over a decade and it’s wonderful to be featured in one. This is the official podcast of O.B.O.D (the Order of Ovates, Bards and Druids) which is the world’s largest Druid Order.
All the profits for print sales of this painting are going to Hedgehog charities – the print run is limited to 50.
To listen to the the story click on the link below.
This painting is inspired by a real life Hedgehog called Susan. Here is her story…
Words by Lee Kynaston.
A hedgehog called Susan
There was a time when hedgehogs were believed to be witches in disguise. That may, or may not, be true (and it certainly shows Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle in a whole new light if it is true) but that they are truly enchanting, magical creatures nobody can deny.
Living in a village in rural Wiltshire Seán and I are used to hedgehogs snuffling around our garden after dusk. I’ve been witness to many a noisy standoff (when two males meet an almost comical game of huffing and puffing ensues, reminiscent of two beady-eyed boxers squaring off at a weigh-in) and once, while I was gazing at a small Beltane bonfire, I looked behind me to see two curious prickly visitors seemingly as transfixed by the ceremonial flames as I was.
Being lucky enough to have these most characterful of creatures in my life I’ve become accustomed to the annual hedgehog life cycle: the tentative emergence from hibernation in March or April; the noisy mating season (hogs are notoriously ’vocal’ when it comes to love-making); the appearance of late-summer juveniles trundling across the lawn in search of slugs, worms and the hedgehog food I put out for them and, finally, their customary disappearance come late autumn when they root out toasty leaf-covered hideaways in which to hibernate.
So it came as a shock when Seán spotted a small hoglet (yes, that’s what baby hedgehogs are called) chewing on a fat ball that had fallen from our bird table on a cold early January morning just after New Year.
Having read several books about hedgehog behaviour over the years I knew this was not a good sign – a hedgehog who ventures out in mid-winter, in broad daylight, is a hedgehog in trouble.
These increasingly endangered animals need to reach a certain weight (ideally around 600g) in order to survive hibernation and clearly this hoglet, small and obviously starving, had not. Left to fend for itself there was little chance it would survive so we quickly rushed outside, scooped it up in a towel (hedgehogs aren’t as prickly as you might think but they’re still pretty tricky to handle), popped it into a box and took it to the Wiltshire Wildlife Hospital – a local charity who look after sick, injured and orphaned wildlife in our local area.
On arrival the staff quickly ascertained our foundling’s sex (it turned out our little hoglet was a girl), weighed her (she was barely 300g) and logged her in as ‘Hedgehog 3’. Presumably she was the third arrival of the New Year and if you’d seen how many hedgehogs were there already you’d appreciate why numbers are the best way to identify new arrivals. To us, though, she was ‘Susan’ – the name we’d given her on the way to the hospital. (Hey, what can I say? She looked like a Susan.)
After a tour of the hospital and a voluntary donation of £25 – an amount the staff assured us would buy a lot of food for the patients – we left our new-found friend in the care of this amazing charity in the hope that come the spring, when she was fit enough, we could return to collect her and return her to our garden so she could live out the rest of her life snuffling through the undergrowth and munching on slugs and woodlice. Perhaps, we thought, she might even witness a Beltane bonfire herself one day.
Sadly, that wasn’t to be. On calling to see how she was doing late in February we discovered that Susan had passed away the day after we brought her to the wildlife hospital. She had simply been too weak, too malnourished and too small to survive, even with our best intentions and the staff’s dedicated care.
Whilst much of Seán’s artwork is inspired by the animals he encounters when journeying with the drum, occasionally it is inspired by transformative, real-life encounters. ‘Hedgehog and the Moon’ was painted as a celebration of the beauty of one such encounter on a cold morning in January. And in appreciation of the work that organisations like the Wiltshire Wildlife Hospital do, 100% of the profits from sales of this print will be split between the Wiltshire Wildlife Hospital and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, who provide advice about hedgehog welfare and fund research to find the best ways to assist hedgehog survival.
Back in the 1950s an estimated 30 million hedgehogs trundled their way across night-time Britain; today it’s thought there are less than a million of these beautiful, reclusive creatures left. Sadly, no amount of kindness was able to save our little Susan but, in purchasing this print, your kindness could help hundreds of (truly magical) hedgehogs just like her.
I have included a photo Of Susan here too as she was when we took her to hospital .