Following hot on the heels of Halloween comes the very British Guy Fawkes Night, which is one of our favourite seasonal celebrations. However, we’re also animal lovers and November 5th can be a particularly stressful time of year for pets and wildlife, but particularly the British hedgehog. So spare a thought for Mrs Tiggywinkle and bear in mind some of these suggestions.
The Night Itself
If possible, build your fire from scratch on the night itself, choosing a flat patch of damp earth.
Not only will the wood be drier and easier to light, having not been exposed to the elements for days on end, it will also avoid burning hibernating hedgehogs alive. Woodpiles are their favourite places to bed down for the winter and, to them, a bonfire looks like a handy Hedgehog Hotel.
Try to keep your bonfire away from piles of leaves and Pampas Grass. Both of these can ignite easily, but are also top spots for hedgehogs to hibernate.
If you have no alternative but to build it in advance, try to keep the base of the bonfire covered by chicken wire. This should extend to a height of a couple of feet and angled away from the bonfire as hedgehogs are deft little climbers.
Before you light your fire, take a broom handle and gently lift the structure off the ground, section by section, to make sure no hedgehogs have managed to make their way inside.
If you do find one, don a pair of gardening gloves and carefully place the hedgehog, together with as much of its nest as you can manage, in a strong cardboard box.
Do this as gently and swiftly as possible, as hedgehogs are nervous creatures.
The British Hedgehog Preservation Society suggests keeping the hedgehog in the box until Bonfire Night is over and then releasing it close to a hedge, allowing it to quietly scuttle away without being watched.
It’s the fireworks rather than the bonfire that bother most other animals around Guy Fawkes Night.
Try to make sure cats and dogs are shut inside before nightfall at this time of year.
Animals feel safer if they have somewhere to hide, so make sure they have access to a cupboard or a space under the bed, for example.
Close your curtains as soon as you can – it’s not only the loud noises that upset pets, but also the sudden, unexpected flashes of light.
Try to make sure someone is at home with them in the evenings in and around November 5th. Even if your pets don’t want to be comforted, your presence will provide a calming influence.
Don’t forget pets that live outdoors too and bundle them up with extra bedding so they have a cosy place to hide.
One of the best things about a bonfire is the fact you can cook on it. Here are just two tasty campfire culinary suggestions.
Best Baked Potatoes
Take a medium-sized potato, scrub the skin and prick it well with a fork. Smother in about a tablespoon of butter and then double-wrap in foil. Place in the embers of your fire, making sure the potato has embers beneath it as well as covering it.
Cook for about 45 – 60 mins. If you can give the potato a good squeeze whilst still in the foil, it’s a good sign it’s cooked.
An American import that’s loved by everyone. All you need is a packet of digestive or Lotus biscuits, a bag of marshmallows and a large bar of chocolate.
Toast the marshmallows over the fire until golden brown, then quickly sandwich between two biscuits complete with a couple of pieces of chocolate!
Enjoy Bonfire Night, but above all, be safe.