Walk on the wild side

Ross-on-Wye, the most southernly located market town in the County of Herefordshire, is surrounded by stunning landscapes, countryside, mountains, hills and of course the River Wye. This lends itself to being the perfect holiday destination for a relaxing break, either a long weekend or a more extended stay to take in the local wildlife. The vibrant market town is surrounded by greenery so where better to celebrate nature and wildlife including National Hedgehog Day, 2 February, and the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch running until the 19 February?

Ross-on-Wye’s links and affiliation with hedgehogs is well known locally and this ancient emblem of the town dates back to 450 AD, with links to an ancient kingdom called ‘Archenfield’, or Land of Urchins, since this is what hedgehogs were known as pre-sixteenth century. In St Mary’s Church, there are hedgehog icons that date back to the seventeenth century on old family crests (Kyrle and Abrahall) up to more recent memorials including the Boar War and WWII. The church’s Hedgehog Trail offers a fascinating glimpse into Ross-on-Wye’s social history and you can find the hedgehog icon around the town, including on the town council office’s iron gate. If you take the John Kyrle Buggy Route around the town, you can visit St Mary’s Church en route and enjoy learning about this unique feature of the town.

With just 14 species worldwide, hedgehogs have experienced a huge drop in numbers in the last decade, so there is even more pressure to halt the continuing decline. Details of how you can do your bit to help our mainly nocturnal prickly friends can be found online via The British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS). The charity, located just north of Herefordshire in Ludlow, was founded in 1982 and works relentlessly to raise awareness of this endangered and much loved animal.

Herefordshire Council‘s Conservation team is also working hard to support hedgehogs locally as part of a wider scheme to provide biodiversity enhancement within the county. The team has already given 100 hedgehog habitats to schools and community organisations, which allows them a safe space to hibernate, raise their young and escape predators.

Whilst hedgehogs are usually quite timid and mostly seen in gardens at dawn or dusk, there are plenty of other wildlife pursuits you can enjoy during the day. For birdwatchers, you can help the RSPB every January and February by taking part in their Big Garden Birdwatch to help with conservation and monitoring. You’ll find a multitude of winged wildlife in the centre of Ross and also along the riverside. Take a walk from the Rowing Club along the Rope Walk towards Wilton, where you can regularly see mandarin ducks, egrets, swans, geese, buzzards, red kites and sometimes herons or our local celebrity kingfisher! Also recently spotted on the canoe launch near The Hope & Anchor are a pair of Swedish blue ducks which seem to have piqued the locals’ interest.

If you’d like to join one of the many wonderful walks in and around Ross-on-Wye, get in touch with our local Walking in Ross team who will be able to offer advice on the best places to view and photograph our local wildlife. Why not make a weekend of it and sign up for the Walking Festival too which takes place 29th September 2023 – there are plenty of riverside and country walks available (final programme to be announced).