ELEPHANTS ON WHITBY BEACH

ELEPHANTS ON WHITBY BEACH

Monday 17 June 2024

MAKING A HEDGEHOG CAFÉ

Our native hedgehog is declining in numbers these days, what with people paving over lawns and building impermeable fences and walls between gardens. They’re lacking places to breed, hibernate and forage for food and they need all the help they can get at the moment. Anything that supplements their diet of invertebrates seems to be appreciated.

We live in Whitby, North Yorkshire, and last year we saw some hedgehogs with their hoglets in the garden, and we put out food for them. However it either got pinched by the neighborhood felines or slithered over by slugs. This year, after researching a bit on the internet, we decided to build a feeding station – a hedgehog café, if you will.

MAKING THE CAFÉ

First buy two containers, I got ours from B&M: A big transparent one with a lid, and a smaller transparent one that fits inside it, which doesn’t require a lid. Whatever containers you choose, make sure the lid fits on the large one with the small one inside it.

Next cut a 4½ inch square in the side of the large container near a corner.

Cutting the squares out is easily the trickiest bit of the whole process. It requires patience, because if you try to rush it you’ll crack the plastic. Mark out the square carefully and score it out with a Stanley knife. Just keep scoring away until the plastic cuts are deep enough for the door to be pushed out.

Here you can see the entrance has been cut out, smoothed down with sandpaper and finished off with clear Gorilla tape so our little prickly chums can’t injure themselves.

Then cut another 4½ inch door in the smaller container. This time you needn’t worry about the upper edge of the door. Just slice it down from the top. This more brittle plastic is even more difficult to cut without cracking. I used a junior hacksaw. Again, it takes a lot of patience and restraint not to rush it.

I ran out of clear tape, so the edges are protected with black tape this time, although in hindsight it makes it easier to see in the photos.

The containers need to fit together like this, so the inside door is at right angles to the outer one. This ensures cats cannot get to the grub inside and ruin the whole thing. I’ve got film of them trying it, but once the lid’s on, they can’t contort their bodies through the small gaps.

Then line the containers with newspaper.

Put a dish of water and a dish of food inside at the front like this. We use Whiskas kitten kibbles as they’re small enough for hedgehog’s tiny mouths. Don’t use mealworms as they can affect the hedgehog’s bones, whereas domestic pet food has been fully tested. Hedgehogs love any combination of wet or dry meat based cat or dog food.

Pop the lid on and it’s ready to put outside.

SURVEILLANCE

There’s a little secluded dropdown area in our garden with a bench where we saw hedgehogs on warm nights last year. We put the café under the bench.

Our camera is an Ezviz outdoor security camera. They’re about £20 and take a tiny SD card so you don’t need to pay for the cloud storage they try to sell you. You need to download the free Ezviz app onto your phone, there’s one for PCs too. The images are very good, although obviously monochrome once it gets dark. First thing every morning we check the app to see who visited while we were snoring in our beds.

The camera is motion sensitive, so if a hedgehog appears it starts recording, but also saves a few seconds before the movement, so you don’t miss anything. There are various settings you can mess around with on the app if you feel so inclined. Most of the things you might get stuck with are covered in YouTube videos if you search for them. It records sound too, and they’re noisy little buggers, snorting and crunching on their food in a most unseemly fashion.

This is how the camera is positioned in relation to the café.

As you can see from the parked van, it’s not a particularly rural area, in fact it’s very near the road. We still get lots of visits though.

The camera needs to be plugged into the mains, so care needs to be taken in keeping the connection waterproof. The mains lead the camera comes with is not very long, so you will need to extend it.

This is how it looks on your phone.

Tuesday 21 May 2024

THE PROSPECT OF WHITBY

The story of this old and atmospheric public house has already been covered in my good friend Richard Locker's excellent article (The Prospect of Whitby 2010), and this post can be seen as a follow up to his research.

Recently, on a visit to London, my daughter Charlotte and I made our way to Wapping to have a pre-booked lunch at this extraordinary watering hole. Stepping from the train and walking through streets of brick faced, characterless dockland buildings, it's easy to think you've taken the wrong road until, after rounding a bend, the Prospect of Whitby is suddenly in front of you solid and permanent. Although dwarfed by the surrounding buildings, it stands out as a psychogeographical link to London's past.

The Prospect, with Pelican Stairs down the right hand side

Before going inside we explored the alleyway down the side of the pub which opens onto the river. Known as Pelican Stairs, this narrow passage ends in steps first rising, and then descending onto a secret beach. Both of us commented on the resemblance to Tate Hill sands at Whitby and the feeling of being on a sheltered, protected shoreline. The Thames here is tidal, and by the time we left after our meal and a few drinks, the sand had been completely covered by lapping waves. 

The 'Tate Hill beach' effect

The beer was excellent and the food was perfect, and not as expensive as you might suppose, but this really isn't an advert for the establishment, it's an advert for the atmosphere. Apparently the painter J.M.W. Turner would stay here under an assumed name to sample the delights of Wapping. Turner's private life is notoriously shrouded in mystery, and the reasons for his visits to dubious dockland pubs can only be guessed at. He made sketches of the river from his vantage point on the Prospect's balcony, although the skyline has changed dramatically since then and is now dominated by the monolithic skyscrapers of Canary Wharf.

The gallows looking over to Canary Wharf

The vicinity of Execution Dock, a grisly place at which for 400 years pirates, smugglers and mutineers were dispatched, is commemorated by a gallows set up on the beach at the back of the pub. The top of the gibbet can just about be reached at arm's length from the pub balcony, and people have placed coins on the wooden beam. An offering of sorts to the ghosts of those sentenced to death by the Admiralty that still haunt the river?

A stunning 3D recreation of The Prospect of Whitby can be explored here: 3D Model by Artfletch

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More information:

Historic England

Pelican Stairs

Execution Dock