When David Clapp was awake at night with back problems, hedgehogs helped him forget the pain.
And now, he is giving back to his spiny visitors by looking after them – and he urged others to do the same.
The 72-year-old said: “They need somebody to stand up for them and protect them. They are like us; they need love and care too.”
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David worked as a hospital nurse before he suffered a spinal injury, which forced him to take early retirement and left him with chronic back pain.
Last year, after a night of restless sleep, David ventured into the garden of his home in Palmer Road, Angmering, and spotted a hedgehog.
He put out a bowl of food and water for it – and now, he has between 10 and 20 visiting him each night.
The grandfather-of-five has transformed his garden into a hog Mecca, with three shelters – including one he made by hand – fifteen dishes filled at 7pm each night with tinned hedgehog food and holes in his fence to let them check in and out. David is also putting his profession to good use, giving first aid, removing ticks, spraying them for fleas and marking the spines with nail varnish so he knows he has treated them before.
He has also widened his campaign beyond his garden, making laminated signs placed along his road to warn motorists to drive carefully and searching Fletcher’s Field for injured hedgehogs which he takes to the Fitzalan House Veterinary Surgery in Littlehampton. His wife Valerie, 74, and son John, 47, have also got behind the cause.
He said he ‘fell in love’ with their character, adding: “It means instead of waking up at night and laying in bed in pain, I can sit in the garden and watch the hedgehogs. It takes you out of yourself.”
David urged others to look after hedgehogs, citing a 25 per cent decrease in the population over a decade.
The best thing to help is putting out a dish of water and cat food at night, especially in hot weather, he said.