Sam Dix

@sjdix

NCTJ: South West Londoner

From September 2014 I began an NCTJ at News Associates. As part of the course I am expected to produce a portfolio of my own work, published by South West Londoner.

From king of the road to country paupers: Meet some of the UK’s most adorable hedgehogs in danger of extinction 

December 6 2014

Once famed for nibbling at the top of milk bottles the hedgehog was once commonplace in our back gardens.

Shuffling in the hedgerows and bushes, these cute critters are often the first experience a child gets with an animal in the wild.

Their adorable faces, juxtaposed against their thorny spikes elicit an ‘aww’ from even the stoniest of characters.

Despite still being found nationwide, from built up urban areas right through to the countryside, this magical childhood experience may be changing.

In the 1950s it was estimated that were a whopping 36.5 million hedgehogs in Britain, but recent estimates now put the number of our prickly pals at a little more than one million, with a loss of 30% of the population since 2002.

So what’s going on?

Fay Vass, chief executive of the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, works to help maintain and increase numbers and explained that people aren’t aware of the extent of the problem.

She said: “Most people don’t seem to know how the desperate the situation is for hedgehogs.

“They’re not officially listed as an endangered species but they are certainly in trouble and the fact is that the loss of hedgehogs in the UK is comparable to the loss of the tiger population worldwide.”

The continued expansion of built-up areas is blamed for the fall in numbers, with hedgehogs not being able to cope with the building sites that often break up their homes.

“A big problem they face is the loss of habitat, but also the connectivity of the habitat isn’t very good anymore,” she explained.

“There are lots of fences, roads and barriers that means one pocket of suitable hedgehog environment doesn’t join up with another one.”

In the summer of 2013, the hedgehog beat competition from species such as the badger and the otter to top a BBC poll and be named Britain’s ‘National Species’.

It is hard to argue the hedgehog’s place in British culture.

From being batted, rather cruelly, around as a croquet ball in Alice in Wonderland right up to the road safety adverts that taught a generation of children how to be avoid getting run over, folklore has even suggested they are even immune to snakebites.

Unfortunately their prickly ancestors were a delicacy in times gone.

In 1783, John Farley – very much the Heston Blumenthal of his time – instructed those curious enough to want to know exactly how to cook a hedgehog (answer: mainly with almonds) in his cookbook The London Art of Cookery.

Happily though hedgehogs have shuffled off the plate as a main course but still face many perilous situations.

Henry Johnson, Hedgehog Officer for People’s Trust for Endangered Species in Battersea, is involved with the Hedgehog Street project, which aims to inform people of the dangers hedgehogs face, and suggests ways that people can help stem the decline.

“In urban areas I think we understand the problem quite well so hedgehog street is an engagement tool to try to empower garden owners which is a huge area of the UK about a quarter of a million hectares,” he explained.

“You can get ten times the population density of hedgehogs in a suburban area if it is suitable then you can do in a rural area, so they can be really good areas for hedgehogs.

“Hedgehog Street is very much a social campaign for people to cooperate over the garden fence.”

Users are able to register their hedgehog on the website ( proving themselves to be a ‘Hedgehog Champion’.)

At the time of writing more than 30,000 hedgehogs have been registered on the site.

A photo gallery featuring hedgehog sightings and hedgehogs recovering from injury documents the journey these little creatures make.

Kew Gardens hadn’t seen a hedgehog for twenty years until they found one in 2012.

It seems strange that an animal once seen as so common would not be found in one of Britain’s biggest gardens.

But all is not lost. Tony Kirkham, Head of the Arboretum at Kew Gardens, spotted one last year and is keen to find more.

“We have a problem in that we have a high badger population and are unable to anything about this.

“However we have a natural area where we discourage visitors from entering and we leave leaves and other things for hedgehogs in a natural setting, which are useful for hedgehogs to overwinter in.”

But there are things we can do. Fay suggests there is a very simple way to get prickles of hedgehogs roaming our gardens once more.

She said: “We ask people to make a gap in their garden fence and make a hole in their garden fence.

“A 13cm square gap in the bottom of any fence or wall is best – try to encourage neighbours to do the same so there is a whole street of lined up houses.

For more information about how to help the dwindling hedgehog population visit www.hedgehogstreet.org

Campaigners rejoice as ‘tax on disability’ is abolished by Hammersmith & Fulham Council

December 5 2014

Home care charges for the elderly and disabled will be abolished by Hammersmith & Fulham Council, helping more than 1,000 people in the area.

The move to eradicate the so-called ‘tax on disability’ was announced at a public meeting at Hammersmith Town Hall to mark the UN’s International Day of Disabled People.

The final decision will be voted on at the council’s annual budget-setting process in February which, if approved, will take effect from next April.

Hammersmith & Fulham Council leader, Cllr Stephen Cowan, said: “I am pleased we have found the money from back office cuts, such as from the council’s PR and admin budgets, and today announce that this administration will abolish what has rightly become known as a tax on disability.”

Kevin Caulfield, team member of Equal Citizen Services, said: “It’s a really incredible day.

We have been campaigning for this for over eight years and we never thought we would see the day we would have a council administration that would listen to us.”

There are 1,266 people in Hammersmith and Fulham who need help carrying out everyday tasks like cleaning, shopping or just having a bath.

The current home care charge is £12 an hour, which can cost some residents as much as £281 a week.

The scheme is being funded by £400,000 cuts in PR, council publications and lamp post banners and will cost £324,000 a year to run.

On the Pulse: Is it sexist for James Bond movies to still have a Bond Girl in the 21st Century?

James-Bond-movie-Dr-No-youtube-Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer-589x342

Spectre is the 24th installment of James Bond which will star Daniel Craig.

Monica Belluci and Léa Seydoux were unveiled as the new ‘Bond girls’ in the franchise’s latest outing, prompting questions over the relevance of the Bond Girl in the modern era.

From Pussy Galore to Xenia Onatopp, one thing has always been certain – where there’s a Bond, there’s a Bond Girl.

In previous films the role of the Bond Girl has been dubious.

Often saying little, and wearing even less, it may appear that the role of the Bond Girl is merely that of a bit of eye candy.

An ability to exit large bodies of water elegantly in very small items of swimwear seems to be the main requirement for the role.

We mustn’t forget that in Skyfall Moneypenny accidentally shot James Bond on a train, prompting her to change career paths and become a receptionist.

James Bond Casino Royale Vespa youtube MGM & Sony Pictures Entertainment

We took to the streets of South West London to find out your opinions.

Is it sexist for James Bond to still have a Bond Girl in the 21st Century?

YES NO
20% 80%

Steven Berkeley, 65, retired from Wimbledon believes it’s up to the girls.

He said: “I think it’s good news for the girls, they get a job.

“Some people would say it’s sexist, but I don’t think it is. If the girl is happy to be scantily clad or looking sexy then what the hell, it’s up to them isn’t it?”

Christine Farrell, 38, a waitress from Earlsfield, thinks it should change.

She said: “It’s always been like that for James Bond. They’re never going to change it.

“It’s wrong, and think they should introduce different looking people.”

Jennifer Fowkes, 24, a shop assistant from Mitcham, is flying the flag for the Bond Girl.

She said: “You can’t have James Bond without the Bond girl, it’s like having Finding Nemo without the fish.”

Jessica Dempsey, 19, a student from Mitcham, is in agreement.

She said: “The Bond Girl is iconic, you can’t have Bond without it.

“It’s been that way for years, you can’t just change it. It wouldn’t be the same without it”

Marinette Clark, 65, retired, from Berne in Switzerland believes the role has adapted over the years.

She said: “I think there has been a change.

“The Bond Girls have become nasty and clever. So they have stopped being just sex objects.

“It is part of the mystique to have a female interest and I think it is handled quite well.”

‘Angry’ Lambeth College lecturers strike over staffing contract row

 

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Lecturers at Lambeth College have walked out today, threatening indefinite strikes, in a row over new staffing contracts.

The strike at the college in Clapham was organised by the University and College Union (UCU) and centres around new contracts for the staff introduced by the college, which the union claim they were not consulted on.

The UCU says although it welcomes the recent decision by the college not to impose new contracts on staff employed before April 2014, it is unhappy with the two-tier contract system and want the new contract removed or a new one drawn up.

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UCU regional official, Una O’Brien, said: “The situation at Lambeth College is now very clear and the management cannot be in any doubt at how angry staff are about the new contracts.”

“The college needs to sit down with us to talk through changes to staff contracts and work towards finding a solution staff are happy with.”

Further to today’s strikes, the union is planning five further days of striking in December, and if the new contracts are not revised, they say they will walk out indefinitely from 19th January.

English and Maths Lecturer, Grace Owolade-Coombes, says the problem lies with the increasing markestisation of education.

“Everything is about business and we’ve found that our working conditions have got worse and we’re really stressed already,” she said.

“To work more hours and have less holiday is not something that any of us feel like we can work with without our delivery being affected. It’s not just about contracts, its about what we’re providing students as well.”

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However not all are in favour of the strikes. Christian Campana, 19, is a business student and believes the strikes are disruptive to lessons, and not the right method of protest.

“We are left to study without teachers because they are always striking,” he said.

“I’m in favour of them fighting for their rights, however I don’t think this is a good idea because no one is left in the classes to help the students actually learn.”

Ready, steady, rook! Bird lovers rustle up gourmet grub for hungry feathered friends

Ready, steady, rook! Bird lovers rustle up gourmet grub for hungry feathered friends

Published 07/11/2-14
Why did the chicken cross the road? Well, according to one of the biggest retails of bird seed in the UK, it might be to get to the gourmet food side.

They say they early bird catches the worm – but that might no longer be good enough for our tweetie pies, who we are increasingly feeding with quality meals.

Demand is flying high, rising more than 50% in the past year alone as more wild life lovers than ever look to feed their birds as a reward for singing for their supper.

Jo Kenrick, Marketing Director at Homebase, said: “Many now want to splash out that little bit extra on special bird food, because plain seed seems a poor return for hearing them sing all day.

“For many bird lovers it would be akin to giving Luciano Pavarotti a plain boiled egg in return for a magnificent performance of La Boheme – rather a meagre way of rewarding excellence”

And while the great operatic tenor may have enjoyed a nice Nessun Korma, it seems our bird foods now go beyond the usual bowl of Sugar Puffins or Cuckoo Pops.

Why not treat your gull friend to a Peckish Winter Warmer? Or, if they’re looking for something to see them through that mid-afternoon slump, how about some tasty Energy Bites with Peanut and Mealworm?

If it seems a bit hard to swallow the standard bird seed remains still the biggest seller but the ‘single coconut shell treat’ is catching up on its tail.

Specially-developed formulas mean that some foods now contain extra bird-specific ingredients, such as Carotenoids, which helps develop their feathers and colour.

Others have extra calcium to help with egg production while some dishes contain extra Vitamin A, D and E, designed to help build strong beaks and wings.

Competitive bird lovers can also choose bird food designed to attract specific species to their gardens.

A special songbird seed mix will boost the dawn chorus, while other blends will attract firm favourites such as blue tits.

And if it’s too expensive, you could always put it on their bill.

Animal charities urge Londoners to check unlit bonfires for hibernating hedgehogs who are in danger of being BURNED ALIVE

Animal charities urge Londoners to check unlit bonfires for hedgehogs in danger of being burned alive

Published 07/11/2014

Animal charities and welfare groups are urging people to check unlit bonfires for hedgehog hibernation nests this bonfire weekend.

Scores of hedgehogs are in danger of being burned alive as they snuggle down in piles of wood and leaves earmarked for bonfires, according to the RSPCA.

Last year the charity received 310 calls in October and November related to fireworks and bonfires.

An RSPCA spokesman said: “A pile of leaves and brushwood intended for a bonfire is an attractive hiding or nesting place for some wild species, such as hedgehogs, especially when they are looking to hibernate.

“Sadly hedgehogs have been burned accidentally in bonfires after settling down in them for the winter.”

The British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) have advised those having bonfires not to build them until the day, to ensure wildlife safety. Other guidance includes surrounding the bonfire in metre-high chicken wire, held in place with stakes and slowed outwards to prevent hedgehogs from climbing over.

Chief Executive of BHPS, Fay Vass, explained that bonfire material stored in advance on open ground must be dismantled before moving it.

“Ensure it’s moved to clear ground – never on top of a pile of leaves as there could be a hedgehog underneath, and not too close to pampas grass which can ignite very easily and is another favourite spot for hedgehogs to hide under,” she said.

Hedgehogs tend to hide in the centre bottom two feet of the bonfire, and the BHPS strongly advise against using a fork to check for animals as this can also endanger them.

Fay added that if hedgehogs are found, it is important to take as much of the nest as possible and place them in a high-sided cardboard box with plenty of newspaper.

“Ideally, wear garden gloves so as not to get human smells on them and to keep them calm as hedgehogs are easily stressed,” she added.

“Once the bonfire is totally dampened down, release the hedgehog under a hedge, bush or behind a stack of logs.”

For more information about hedgehog safety click here www.britishhedgehogs.co.uk

Boris doesn’t care about Uxbridge, says his Ukip rival, aged 22

21/09/2014

BORIS JOHNSON can expect strong competition for the Uxbridge and South Ruislip parliamentary seat, says one of his rivals, 22-year-old Ukip candidate Jack Duffin.

Ealing Times:

Mr Duffin, 22, who is also chairman of the Ukip youth wing – Young Independence – says the London Mayor does not care about the area.

He said: “Boris has made all these promises and done the opposite.

“As a mayor, he’s been shocking. He came in and promised to keep open ticket offices and to increase police numbers. It seems he’s gone back on more or less every promise he’s made and people are sick of it.”

In the 2010 general election, Ukip received just 2.7 % of the vote and Sir John Randall, who is retiring, has a majority of more than 11,000 votes.

Mr Duffin, who didn’t vote in the last election and stood unopposed for the Ukip candidacy, is excited about the unexpected attention everyone is receiving.

“The seat has gone from one of the least interesting to the biggest in the country,” he said.

 

 

Och aye the yes! Wimbledon golfers delighted with Royal and Ancient Golf Club vote which puts female membership on par with males

Och aye the yes! Wimbledon golfers delighted with Royal and Ancient Golf Club vote which puts female membership on par with males

Published 15/09/2014

Wimbledon golfers are delighted that the Scottish ‘home of golf’ voted in favour of allowing women members yesterday.

On the day of the Scottish referendum vote the Royal and Ancient Golf Club (R&A) in St Andrews balloted its 2,500 global members – 85% said ‘yes’ to female members.

In its 260-year history it has been strictly males only, but now the rules have been relaxed allowing women members.

Wimbledon golf club members told SW Londoner they were backing a ‘yes’ vote because they believe their female membership has brought more to their clubs and to the game of golf itself.

Bridget Lewis, 65, has been a member of Royal Wimbledon Golf Club for 15 years and explained that women should be on a par on the golf course.

She said: “Wimbledon golf clubs are very equal, unlike some other parts of the country who don’t allow women to play at weekends.

“Even my husband is in favour and he’s been playing  20 years,” she added.

Wimbledon golf club SWL

There is also an indication that this will be positive for the development of youth players.

Mrs Lewis’s golfing partner, Caroline Bennfors, 49, a visiting Junior Organiser for Worplesdon Golf Club in Surrey, said this outcome would encourage young female players to take up golf.

She said: “Golf is no longer an old boys’ club. The R&A are now bringing themselves into the 21st century.”

Since the introduction of female memberships, the number of golf clubs springing up across the UK has risen sharply.

Golf Development Manager Gary Clements, 52, has more than 30 years’ experience at Wimbledon Common Golf Club.

He said ladies only became members in 2008 and they now have 50 female players.

“Clubs aren’t holding on to the old traditions as they are no longer there.”

Clubhouse Manager at Wimbledon Common Golf Club Emma Pope, 36, said she believes women should be members of the R&A to encourage equal opportunities in golf.

Wimbledon Golf Club Emma Pope SWL

In Wimbledon golf terms, WAGS, not wives and girlfriends but the Wimbledon Ancient Golf Society, still hang on to their traditions.

They may have accepted female members, but they still enjoy their social customs.

Emma said: “Some of the male members who have been here for 30-40 years still sit on the other side of the room like they have for years, but the women have certainly livened it up!”

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