Growing up in a home surrounded by countryside and woodland, sisters Janette and Sue have fond childhood memories of always being outside enjoying the fresh air and appreciating the wonders of wildlife.
Animals played a huge part in their lives ever since they can remember and, as well as having lots of family pets, they were fascinated from a young age by the wild animals on their doorstep.
Janette Jones, now 53, now uses her home in Cottage Fields, Chorley, as a rescue haven for poorly hedgehogs and injured wild birds and she and sister Sue Smith, 47, who also lives in Chorley, want to open an official wildlife sanctuary and raise public awareness about the decline in hedgehogs.
Janette explains: “We grew up on Eaves Green Road in Chorley and our home was surrounded by greenery, farms and woodland.
“I remember always being outside as a child and we loved wildlife and nature.
“We were always playing in the woods watching the roe deer and foxes and loved looking at butterflies and bees.
“We had lots of pets at home and always had some sort of connection with horses, rabbits, cats and dogs.
“We enjoyed going out finding frog spawn and feeding birds in the garden.
“We had a wonderful childhood and were very lucky to grow up with places like Yarrow Valley and Duxbury Park on our doorstep.”
Sue adds: “It was great growing up with a farm at the bottom of our garden and all the open fields, woods and Birkacre just near us.
“We used to enjoy going on bat walks as they nested in one of the nearby barns.
“Animals have always been a huge part of our lives and never a day went by when we weren’t around the menagerie of pets and farm animals.
“From the age of nine, I wanted to be a vet. To this day, it is my biggest regret that I didn’t do it, but some ill advice from a college steered me in the wrong direction.”
One of the most vivid recollections the sisters have of their childhood was constantly seeing hedgehogs at night.
Janette recalls: “We used to camp out and go out walking our dogs and would see hedgehogs all the time.
“We also used to see six or seven hedgehogs at a time at night in the garden and would put plates of food out for them.
“But now, sadly, the number of hedgehogs has declined dramatically and you don’t see them as often.”
It is estimated that hedgehogs in the UK have declined from 30m in the 1950s to around only 1.5m today.
Janette explains there are many factors leading to the decline of hedgehogs and tens of thousands are killed on the roads alone every year.
The steep decline in hedgehogs is due to habitat loss, new roads, housing developments, climate change, pesticides and garden machinery.
Janette says: “So many hedgehogs get squashed on the roads as drivers don’t stop and run them over.
“Many are killed in strimming accidents in gardens or by drowning in ponds.
“Some hedgehogs die after eating slug pellets in gardens and being poisoned by them.
“Other hedgehogs are attacked by dogs.
“Fly strike kills many hedgehogs as bluebottles lay eggs on them and they are eaten alive.
“Hedgehogs are nocturnal animals so if they are found during the day, it means they need help immediately.
“Hedgehogs are now listed as an endangered species and everybody needs to get involved to help these beautiful creatures.”
Janette and Sue’s love for animals has continued throughout their life and they completed a first aid course at a wildlife hospital and are now looking to open SnJ’s Wildlife Rescue Centre at Janette’s home to help hedgehogs and other animals in need.
As well as hedgehogs, they have helped nurture wild birds and ducklings back to health.
Since qualifying in first aid rehabilitation to care for poorly hedgehogs in November, the sisters have cared for a number of the creatures with the aim of releasing them back into the wild after they have recovered.
Sadly, some of the hedgehogs have been so injured or poorly, they have died despite the care, attention and medical treatment lavished on them by the sisters.
Janette says they have had a great response from the public since announcing they are offering a sanctuary for hedgehogs and wild birds.
Janette says: “People called us after finding hedgehogs and we took them all in.
“We literally had hedgehogs in the bath, under the stairs and in my spare room and cloakroom.
“However, we had no hutches, no food, no medication and no vet.
“We now have Adlington Vets who have been amazing and we now have the support of Pinewood vets and Chorley vets and could not do this without their vital help.
“In the last few months, we have been paying out for food, hutches and other things.
“We have laid out about £900 from our own pockets since November and a lot of that has been towards vets bills.
“We now want to open an official wildlife centre and raise money for everything we need to have the facilities to continue caring for animals in need.
“We are currently a non profit organisation but eventually we would love to become a wildlife charity.”
Janette and Sue need to raise funds for planning permission to renovate Janette’s home to set up the centre, electrical work, lighting, heating, insulation, windows, doors, utility room, vets bills, medication food and stacking houses for recovering hedgehogs.
The sisters are also looking for businesses interested in sponsorship and tradesmen to help with renovations as well as people willing to donate tinned cat or dog food, which is what hedgehogs eat, as well as biscuits and mealworms.
They are also looking to create their own group of volunteers to become part of the local “Hogwatch” team to report sightings and help rescue hedgehogs in trouble.
Janette says: “We have had some great success stories but sadly many of the hedgehogs are so poorly, they don’t survive.
“Some of the hedgehogs die within 24 hours and some die a few days later.
“It is very sad when some hedgehogs don’t make it despite being seen by the vet, given medication and lots of love and attention.”
Sue says: “We love what we do and enjoy caring for and helping animals and birds in need.
“It is a true calling and I couldn’t not do it.
“Don’t get me wrong, you can have your heart broken every day when you lose a fur baby.
“But when they do make it, there’s no better feeling.”
One of the hedgehogs the sisters helped was Evi who was found during the day weighing just 146g. He battled bravely for a few months and gained weight.
However, he developed a joint problem in both front legs and sadly they could not save him.
Janette says: “We did everything we could to try to help this most beautiful boy but sadly we could not save him. It broke our hearts after caring for and spending so much time with Evi. It was not the outcome we hoped for.
“He was a joy and pleasure to care for and when we do get the garage converted into a wildlife rescue centre, we will call it ‘Evi’s House’.
Sue adds: “We still miss Evi every day and he will always be our brave special boy.”
Success stories the sisters have experienced include Woody the hedgehog who they nursed back to health after he was attacked by a dog. He recovered and was released back into the wild.
Millie the hedgehog was found weighing only 155g in November and is now well and weighs 990g. She is ready for release when it becomes warmer at night.
Bertie the hedgehog was found with fly strike and worms and released after treatment and other successes include a family of swallows and three ducklings.
Janette says: “Hedgehogs just melt your heart.
“They all have such different characters and personalities and are special little creatures.
“The more time you spend with hedgehogs, the more you love them.”
Janette and Sue urgently need funds to enable them to move forward with their centre. Building work needs to be completed during the summer before they start to get poorly autumn juvenile hedgehogs that desperately need their help.
In the future, the sisters hope to invite schools and students to learn about hedgehogs and visit the centre for educational purposes.
l To make a donation towards the centre, visit: www.gofundme.com/6sswwa2k
To find out more, visit the Facebook page www.facebook.com/snjswildliferescue or call Janette and Sue on 07599 950153.