Sunday, 28 February 2016

The Tiggywinkles Story - Part 2

Hello Everyone, once again - from my temporary base away from my flat.

Allow me to introduce one of the residents at Tiggywinkles on the day daughter Philippa and I were visiting St Tiggywinkles Hedgehog Hospital in December 2015.  How come the "St .Tiggywinkles" I hear folks mutter!  Well apparently, in the early days of the Hospital, some journalists decided that as many human hospitals in the UK (in the  Greater London Area for example, we have a St. George's, a St Helier, and St Mary's), it was felt to be only right that a Hospital for Hedgehogs, performing such good work for wildlife in general and the Hedgehogs in particular, deserved to be similarly designated! Thus it came to be.... and continues to be.

 An unimpressed Hedgehog, who had been rudely awakened so that it could be displayed to us visiting humans - on a cold, very blustery December morning:  when it had been warmly tucked up in a wooden house stuffed with dry straw.  The staff member performing the introduction was unsure if it was one called "Lavender" or another one:  it didn't stay around long enough for the introductions to be completed - once replaced on the ground!

Last week, I wrote about my visit to this centrepiece of the Tiggywinkles Wildlife Trust located at Haddenham, in the Vale of Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire based not too far from - and within easy reach of  - London.  (Rail and road communications are good and once Haddenham Station is reached by train, there are taxis available to take one to the site.)  Philippa's home is just 30 minutes drive, so although it was cold, and very windy, that day, it was not difficult for us to access by car.

This is the extensive play area available for visitors' use in the Gardens surrounding the Visitor Centre.
The building on the right is the newly opened Red Kite Centre about which I wrote briefly last week.  The Wildlife Hospital is pretty central to the area designated by the Government when the Red Kite was officially reintroduced to the UK in the 1990's, after having been extinct for many decades.  From the initial introductions, Red Kites have now become a familiar sight when one drives into London along the M40 Motorway and it's great fun watching the smaller birds testing their flying abilities and coasting along on the thermals - especially during windy conditions.  In the picture you can see the specially built aviaries for these beautiful bird patients (in the background between the fencing and the back of the Centre, which also houses a Coffee Shop for visitors to use).

Next door to the Red Kite Centre, along the designated Visitors path way, and opposite the Pond

(another view of the Pond can be seen in last week's bulletin, by the way), is a series of aviaries reserved for avian patients who arrive for treatment, where they can recover (or live, as in the case of the two ravens we saw during our visit) from their injuries.  There were two in situ when Philippa and I visited, but only one who was not camera shy!

Further along the trail around the Tiggywinkle's Gardens, we came across this notice - and since we have several Foxes present in the Coldham Cuddlies Family of Toys (a visit to this section of our Shop illustrates this -  - I thought I'd include the following Fox-related shots I managed to take during our visit.

Just behind this notice, you can see the roof of a wooden shelter, which we subsequently learned is where the Foxes come to get their daily rations.  It's located in a fairly large area, dedicated to the Fox Patients who are either permanent residents at Tiggywinkles, or are currently waiting to be returned to the wild.

The rear of a male fox, who had eyed our arrival with deep suspicion for some time, but eventually decided to go about his daily business.
There are several buildings around a fairly substantial ground area where we assumed other Foxes were at rest or sheltering from the nasty conditions at the time.

A general view of the Fox Den, with buildings in what appeared to be an area reserved for injured Deer in the background on the left of the photograph. 
 I've still some more photographs I took during my Christmastime visit in 2015 - which will be located throughout elsewhere in this blog. However, visitors to my Toy Shop on, and those of you who follow the Coldham Cuddlies  on Facebook and elsewhere, will also be aware, we are also supporting another Hedgehog Hospital in the West Midlands of the United Kingdom.   I intend to write something about West Midlands Hedgehog Rescue next week, and am hoping to be able to use some photographs provided by the Proprietor of the establishment too.

As our journey around the Gardens at Tiggywinkles drew to a close, it was obvious that not all of the residents at Tiggywinkles can be described as "wild" or "patients":  a view we came to when we saw this very healthy lop-eared Rabbit, who was sharing a space with several Hedgehog houses (with hibernating residents inside,presumably).

Rabbit's Hutch can be seen in the background of this particular pen, together with a substantial pipe - for shelter during the day and play, one would assume.

I'll end this episode of the Tiggywinkles Story and the Coldham Cuddlies connection here.

In the interim, although away from home, I am still managing to keep abreast of Shop related administration and such like.  Finally, I managed this week to re-tag and re-label all the 87 currently listed Cuddlies available for sale (that's taken some doing, I can tell you!).  Really find it quite a task, especially as I'm still not really sure what I am doing (or even supposed to do!!).  To correct the latter deficiency, I'm this week starting a 4 week course offered by one of the Teams I've recently joined -   - and hope, by the end of the course, to have a better idea of what is supposed to be going on.  Partnered by Team Captain, who is kindly taking me under her wing, by the end of the course, I hope to have a better idea of how to proceed!  After recently celebrating 5 years on Etsy, it's time I really got down to it and worked at increasing sales of the Cuddlies, methinks!

When I'm not working on the SEO Course, I shall be continuing with my Baby Rabbit replacement programme.  Four new Yellow and White Baby Rabbits -  are about to be renewed and I'm set to do four more Pink and White versions next (  One is already promised to a little Girl, who was adopted at the same time as my young Grandson.  Like my youngster - she is about to conclude the long-winded adoption process early in April.  The day that their names are changed by deed poll to become part of their new family - the Celebration Day - has been set for dates, one after the other,  in the first week of April. As the two youngster live close to each other, we're hoping to keep up the friendships already begun.

See you next week.  Hope everyone has a good one!


(Thanks are expressed to Tiggywinkles Wildlife Trust for permission to use these photographs to illustrate this post - and the subsequent follow-ups.)

Sunday, 21 February 2016

The Tiggywinkles Story - Part One.

Hello again Everyone.  Good to be back again with you.  It's time for me to begin telling you all more about the fund raising efforts that the Coldham Cuddlies and I have been involved with for some time, and I hope you'll find the story full of fun and information.

Ever since the beginning of October 2015, I've been mentioning my interest in Coldham Cuddlies and I trying to do something to try to halt the decline of the UK Hedgehog population.  With the three Coldham Cuddlies Hedgehog Toys (shown later), I've been attempting to build a fund-raising campaign to try to help those who are much better placed to do so in a "hands-on" capacity. and have chosen two UK Hedgehog Hospitals to support.    They are West Midlands Hedgehog Rescue and Tiggywinkles Wildlife Trust.  It's the latter that I'm going to tell you about in today's post - as well as maybe a couple more as well.

Starting in 1978, using their back garden as the operations base, Les, Sue and Colin Stocker began what has now become the busiest wildlife hospital in Europe. When Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hospital started few people had given much thought to the welfare of such creatures as frogs, badgers, wrens, owls, hedgehogs and all the other small animals that give us humans so much pleasure.

The Introductory Notice Visitors to Tiggywinkles read as they start walking round the Trust's Grounds, with examples of the Patients that are regularly treated at the establishment.
Once they realised such care was available, the public began to provide patients in ever increasing numbers - to the point that over 200,000 patients of all shapes, species and sizes have now passed through the doors of the Hospital. Together with a friendly local veterinary surgeon (now enlarged to being a team of specialist surgeons and veterinary nurses) the Stockers took every patient in that presented - and treated those who could be saved – free of charge.

A typical Tiggywinkles Patient List
That is still the case, with animals given every chance to live when they are initially assessed. Euthanasia is very much the last resort. Those not able to cope in the wild, are carefully housed within the Visitor Centre gardens and grounds which surround the current state of the art Wildlife  Hospital – which was opened by HRH Princess Alexandra in November 1991.

One of the oldest residents in the Badger Sett at Tiggywinkles

Stories of Three Tiggywinkles Permanent Residents:  Merry and Christmas arrived on the same day (at Christmas time).
The Hospital now stands in six acres of Church Farm, Haddenham, Buckinghamshire – thanks to a 999 year lease provided by Buckinghamshire County Council – responding to a massive fund-raising effort by the Stockers and friends, as well as sponsorship from British Telecom and BP.

Like most of the signs at Tiggywinkles, this is housed behind glass:  making photography with a small digital camera challenging.  Hopefully, Readers can get an idea of the Hospital surroundings.
The specialist knowledge gleaned in the daily operations of Tiggywinkles is now shared throughout the world by means of publications, books and lectures to veterinary schools – whenever the staff are invited. Latterly, a special City and Guilds course has evolved for young students wishing to specialise in wild life care, with many progressing to fully fledged animal welfare qualifications.

Tiggywinkles staff teams are also called upon to assist at large scale wildlife disasters outside their immediate location in Buckinghamshire - such as major oil spills, where sea birds and other animals are affected.  It's  educational  to read this particular sign board - and an indication of how important the work carried on at this establishment is - not only in the UK, but also in Europe too.

Special pens have been built to separately house badgers and foxes, sheds built to shelter deer patients, a large pond (almost a lake indeed) for bird life (some indeed just visiting) and most recently – in 2011 – a massive set of aviaries was opened to house Red Kites so that the Hospital is able to cope with injured birds, the result of the tremendous success of the Government's re-introduction of the species. The new Red Kite Information and Education Centre is now open, allowing the public to get near to these “masters of the sky”.

The Badger Sett, with the rear of the Visitor Centre and Museum (L) in the background.

The Pond at Tiggywinkles, where patients live, and all avian visitors are made welcome.
Inevitably as the public learned about the Wild Life Hospital's services, they also came just to visit and learn. Naturally, they cannot see the patients in the Hospital, but there is a first-class Museum – with artefacts and information about Hedgehogs, who have been around since the days of Ancient Egypt - and still continue to fascinate. Hedgehogs have become mascots to battleships, lent their names to military formations in battle, and perform evaluable garden services in controlling slugs and other enemies of the world's gardening public. Their biggest drawback is that being nocturnal and small, it is easy for our busy world to forget they are there.

Recent problems our prickly friends face include loss of habitat. Modern farming practices mean that increasingly in the UK they are having to share it with Badgers – who are not only a protected species in this country, but also are not above enjoying the occasional Hedgehog "snack". Tiggywinkles does not discriminate between these two species, and welcomes patients from both. Indeed, when I visited with daughter Philippa, just before Christmas 2015, we were able to see the badger sett (see the picture above)  – but not its residents. Because, like Hedgehogs, they are nocturnal animals.  (Recently, as late as last week, moves have started to have Hedgehogs protected - in the same way that the UK's endangered Red Squirrels are.  So watch this space!)

The modern Hedgehog is also up against the ever growing need for building land – with modern houses surrounded by fences, which disturb the normal hedgehog routes between home and food. Gardeners in the UK are being urged to cut holes (the size of disc covers) in their boundaries – to save their garden Hedgehogs having to go into roads and streets to make progress, and then losing their fight against the car drivers sharing the same space. The recent flooding experienced throughout the UK will not have helped either – with many Hedgehogs who might have hibernated in garden wood piles and rubbish heaps probably being swept away in the flood waters.

Personally, having been an avid Beatrix Potter reader myself – as well as reader to my daughters of the same stories – I've always had a soft spot for Mrs Tiggywinkle, so it's no surprise perhaps that when I learned – several years ago – about the Tiggywinkle Wildlife Trust,  I'd be a likely Trust membership candidate. I was also reared on the stories of Little Grey Rabbit and her friends, particularly Fuzzipeg, written by Alison Uttley. (Samples of these stories can be seen in the Visitors Museum in Haddenham too) and since December 2015, there have been 3 Coldham Cuddlies Handmade Hedgehog Toys looking to be adopted by future visitors to Tiggywinkles.  (The Visitors Season begins at Easter each year, with opening hours being Monday-Friday 10.00 am to 4.00 pm).
Coldham Cuddlies is the online Toy making business that I started in 2010 as occupational therapy to ease my arthritic hands, as well as to provide a break from care responsibilities for my late disabled husband. After his death in 2010, the Cuddlies became a full time occupation, and during the 2015 autumn, I became aware of the current dangers to the UK Population as a whole. With three obvious candidates to uses as my Helpers, finding an acceptable way to support Tiggywinkles has become something of an obsession in my life!  

This post has gone on long enough, so I'll end it now.  The Tiggywinkles Story will continue next week,  Until then, here's hoping everyone has a great one.


(Thanks are expressed to Tiggywinkles Wildlife Trust for permission to use these photographs to illustrate this post - and the subsequent follow-ups.)

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Squirrel Kalaedescope - You Choose between the Blacks, Reds and Greys!

Greetings everyone - and apologies for the absence of last week's post.  Several reasons for it, including the fact that our Black Squirrels (mentioned by Cy Bear in his last post a couple of weeks ago) had still to be completed, and also because I  have been unexpectedly away from base. (While this still continues to be the case, hopefully all will be restored to "normal" soon).

In the interim, because "home" is not far from where I find myself at the moment, I've been able to retrieve the necessary fabric and other haberdashery needed to complete the Coldham Cuddlies Squirrel project.  So, this post will serve to introduce the three latest members of the Coldham Cuddlies family:

First - even though he/she is/are the newest members of the Squirrel clan - meet Basil:  so called because the name rhymes with Cyril Red Squirrel and Sybil Grey Squirrel, who were alluded to in Cy Bear's last post two Sundays ago. (My word, doesn't the time fly by:  here we are, already mid February 2016!):
Basil (R) has a felt acorn sewn on between his front paws, while Basil (L) does not:  just to give interested parties a choice of how their new Coldham Black Squirrel might look when thinking about adoption procedures!

This is Basil Squirrel (R) with his acorn - currently upside down, but ready for turning the right way around if required.  Cy Bear, in his last post, did mention that I was wondering how to sew the facial features on to this very black toy - because, of course, for most of my other Cuddlies, they have them sewn on with Black DK Yarn.  Eventually, I decided to go with light Brown DK Yarn for these boys, and think it works quite well.  White was just a little too stark a contrast.

Here is Basil Squirrel (L) giving a better side view of his shape.  The tails curve round at their ends, quite realistically, but being black, they don't show up as clearly as they do with the Grey and Red Squirrels.  They're all on sale at £20.00 GBP ($29.00 USD), are made in a totally smoke free and animal free environment and make really Cool Toys for Toddlers, Tots and even Grown-ups too!  

To be quite honest, I'd never heard of Black Squirrels prior to beginning the Squirrel project - one that had been on my "To Do" list for some time, (at least 3-4 years ) since receiving a Birthday (or even Mother's Day) gift from daughter,Clare.  

(This particular toy publication has been responsible already  for (Barney, Barn Owl) and our Frog - the current version being a Brown and Yellow Toy to be seen at )
I'd taken the first versions of the Grey and Red Squirrels to show friends after Mass one week after they had been completed, and during the conversation after their revelation, not only was the suggestion made to name them "Sybil" and "Cyril" respectively, but mention was made about there being Black Squirrels in existence in parts of America (with California mentioned as being where they were most prolific).  Since most of my Cuddlies seem to find Forever Homes in the USA, it thus seemed a logical move to find out more.  

My research (thanks to Google and Wikipaedia) told me that Black Squirrels derive from the Grey Squirrels and are about the same size as the Greys.  The Reds, are not only smaller, but they are now more often to be found in pockets of  the UK and, since the introduction of the Greys to our island, they are diminishing fast.  Because the Reds are more susceptible to a "squirrel pox" carried by the Greys (who seem to be largely immune to the disease), as well as being unable to stand up to the invasion by the bigger North American species.  The Black Squirrels are not just limited to California, but are commonly to be seen in the northern American States - across the whole Continentas well as the southern Canadian Provinces north of their shared borders.
However, curiously, there is an isolated colony of  Black Squirrels in the UK - in the vicinity of the town of Letchworth, in Hertfordshire (north of London).  Why they remain there, without having spread around the rest of the UK raises some interesting queries - as well as why we don't know more about them. 

Basil Black Squirrel - a view of the rear
When the move back home takes place, I'll take pictures of the three different coloured Coldham Cuddlies Toy Squirrel colony together, but meanwhile, here is one of the Reds and Greys to be getting on with.

Together with that photograph, I'll  also be going back to my Hedgehog obsession - starting to tell you more about the Christmas-time visit made to Tiggywinkles Hedgehog Hospital, one of the two Hedgehog charities the Cuddlies and I are trying to help in the fight to halt the decline of the UK Hedgehog population.  Permission has been received to use my photographs - as a reminder of that visit - and arrangements have been  put in place as to how the three Hedgehog Toys I donated to the Hedgehog Hospital Trust could be used to possibly increase our contribution to our fund-raising efforts.  All will become plain in coming weeks.

Sybil Grey Squirrel - rear view
Meanwhile -this week, nationally in the UK,  there were some developments in the overall fight for our Hedgehog Population.  Some moves are afoot to give Hedgehogs the same protection currently on offer to our Red Squirrels.  Both species are also among the contenders to be declared the National UK Animal.  You'll not be surprised to know that I'm solidly behind the Hedgehogs: although, I do admit to having torn loyalties were it to end in a race between the Hedgehogs and the Red Squirrels.  (Foxes and Badgers have been mentioned as well, for those who might be interested!)  What about the Grey Squirrels, I hear folks enquire?  Well, there are moves to try to remove them all together - because of their effect on our native Red Squirrels.  They are not native to our islands.

Watch this space - developments on all fronts will, of course, be reported as and when they occur.

Finally, Cyril Squirrel - from the back
Be back again, hopefully in normal surroundings, next week.  Cy Bear is on guard, as ever, when I'm away from base.  See you all then.