BAKERS battled it out to create the best hedgehog-themed cakes at an event celebrating the spiny species this weekend.

HedgeOx campaigner Hugh Warwick organised the Hedgehog Day in Witney – a town he has named as ‘hedgehog central’ for Oxfordshire.

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Known as Hedgehog Hugh, the ecologist and author revealed at this year’s Countryfile Live at Blenheim Palace that a public survey had shown the West Oxfordshire town was the place to go for hedgehog sightings.

Witney Gazette:

To celebrate, the campaigner decided to put on the Hedgehog Day at Witney Corn Exchange on Sunday.

He said: "I was a little nervous beforehand that nobody would come but it's been incredible.

"The event has been packed all day and people really seem interested to learn about hedgehogs and the other wildlife that we need to protect."

Hundreds descended on the Hedgehog-themed extravaganza, enjoying everything from craft making and stalls by wildlife groups including Oxfordshire Mammal Group, Butterfly Conservation and Meadow in my Garden, to admiring the entries of the Great Hedgehog Bake-Off.

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Culinary competitors were challenged to produce their best hedgehog-themed cakes for prizes based around the creature.

There were 17 entries of all shapes and sizes, from miniature meringues to chocolate creations.

Mr Warwick said: "They were fantastic, and the bakers decided to auction off their cakes to raise money for charity."

One of the star bakers was Pete Harvey, whose Victoria sponge cake impressed thanks to its flake decoration and chocolate button eyes. The 54-year-old said: "It was lovely to win, I got a signed copy of Pam Ayres' book The Last Hedgehog."

Witney Gazette:

On the event overall, he added: "It's absolutely brilliant, and great that Witney and councillors have got behind it."

Helping judge the competition was Witney mayor Duncan Enwright, who had come straight from running the Oxford Half Marathon that morning.

He said: "It's been great to see so many people here. I think it shows how much more aware people are of the need to preserve our wildlife.It's been so successful I think it is definitely something we'd want to do again."

The HedgeOx campaign seeks to reverse the trend of hedgehog population decline in Oxfordshire. Hedgehog numbers nationwide have plummeted, with urban populations down 30 per cent and rural populations down by half since the turn of the century.

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A petition created by Mr Warwick calling for the creation of 'hedgehog highways' – a 13cm hole in the bottom of a fence that allows hedgehogs to move freely between gardens to find food and a mate.

It has now been signed almost 600,000 times.

Writing an update on the petition about Hedgehog Day, Mr Warwick said: "I was deeply moved by the experience - when I had a moment to look up from talking to so many people. It was a delight to meet some of you! Thank you to all who came and said hello."

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