A little girl with a big heart is taking action to help hedgehogs after hearing of the serious decline in numbers in the UK.
Ten-year-old Brooke Watts has been campaigning at her school and at her Scout group, sourcing information, leading assemblies and championing fundraising for Wadars Animal Rescue.
Mum Madeleine Watts said: “With all of Brooke’s effort, she has made people aware about the poor little hedgehog, a wonderful British animal which in five years will no longer be around if we do not act now.”
Brooke lives in Wood Lane, Small Dole, and attends Thakeham Primary School in Storrington.
She was moved by an episode of Countryfile on BBC One in September about the serious decline in the hedgehog population.
Madeleine said: “This got my daughter thinking about how she could help the population and with all the facts via Countryfile and the internet, she set about plans to help.”
She approached her head teacher, Samantha Norton, with the idea of running a competition, where pupils were asked to build a hedgehog house and take in a photo.
Madeleine said: “She told the whole school about the decline in an assembly and how we all could do our bit to help. They had a whole month to complete the house and the winner would receive a hedgehog RSPCA treat bag.
“While this was running, Brooke and I had been granted permission to visit a presentation from Wadars Animal Rescue at Haskins Garden Centre.
“To great joy, Brooke was so happy to see the room packed out with so many people like-minded about helping the poor hedgehog. So many people had photos and stories about the poor animal.
“Brooke, armed with pen and paper, took notes and even spoke to the speaker and the charity organiser, explaining what she was doing and how she was helping.”
Back at school, Brooke arranged to talk to her class and answer questions.
Madeleine said: “The competition was a great success and so many took part that Brooke enlisted the help of Mrs Norton to decide the overall winner, as all the entries had been great, with so much detail on what had been used and what to feed them.”
Not stopping there, Brooke then embarked on spreading the message to the Cubs and Beavers at 1st Beeding and Bramber Scout Group.
Madeleine said: “This time she came up with the idea of arranging a talk from her and getting both Beavers and Cubs to make recycled hedgehog homes by collecting leaves and using garden pots one evening, which was enjoyed by both groups one very dark and cold Tuesday evening. They also earned their animal badges.
“She then decided to arrange for an ambassador from Wadars to give a talk to the Cubs and Beavers about the work they do locally and how they can help, which took place on November 20.
“But again Brooke, wanted to give money to the charity, so she has set herself a challenge to read as many books as possible in 20 days. She has approached family, friends and local residents and teachers to sponsor her.
“Her Cubs leader Helen, touched by Brooke’s kindness, has also arranged for the Cubs and Beavers to help at home for a week to raise more funds for such a fantastic local charity.”
The talk and slideshow last Tuesday were much enjoyed by the Cubs and the money Brooke raised, plus donations from other Cubs, resulted in £299 being presented to Wadars.
Cub Scout leader Helen Cosham said Brooke joined Cubs a little over two years ago and has loved every bit of her time with the pack.
“The day she joined, she told me about her elderly neighbour, who she had been helping care for, along with the lady’s carers. She was upset that she had to go into a care home but was hoping the person who bought her house would be elderly, so she could look after her.
“She has been an inspiration to all of our Cubs. The rest of the pack have been inspired by her to write letters of thanks to our visitors, to earn badges by doing that little bit extra outside Cub meetings. She is more than happy to look after and make welcome a new Cub.
“The night she ran the hedgehog evening, she was really good. The Beavers and Cubs listened to her, then went out to build the natural hedgehog houses. What I really noticed was, she did an excellent job of risk assessment, so all were kept safe outside in the dark.
“Brooke very much, in the words of the Cub Scout Law, ‘thinks of others before herself’, be it human or animal.”