Animal lover Barbara Roberts has been caring for thousands of sick and injured animals for over thirty years.
She founded the Withington Hedgehog Trust in 1983 after she rescued a hedgehog that had fallen into her pond. She couldn’t find anyone who could help it so, after doing endless research, she hand reared it and nursed it back to health.
The 67-year old former nurse found out that if you take an injured hedgehog to a vet, nine times out of ten they will just get put to sleep – something she wanted to avoid.
So she made it her her mission in life to ensure all of the little creatures get the help they deserve – and help tackle the hedgehog population crisis – by transforming her semi-detached house in Withington into a sanctuary where she nurses the injured creatures back to health before releasing them into the wild.
With no help, this remarkable woman has dedicated every single day to helping the vulnerable animals. Every animal needs feeding at least once a day, and in the spring when the babies come, she feeds them every two hours – even during the night.
Currently, she has just under 400 prickly pals she is nursing back to health. She has a Hedgehog Hospital in the back but brings them inside for the winter to keep them extra warm.
“I feel like I am their mum,” she says. “I hand rear them, wipe their bottoms and I feed them like newborn babies.”
She once had a baby hedgehog that was born the size of a bean, weighing just nine grams. Usually a newborn weighs 16 grams. This was an exceptionally small one, but with perseverance she nursed the little hog back to full health and released it back into the wild.
Barbara also has eight pet dogs, some of which were abandoned on her doorstep, and 21 rabbits that she currently houses in her conservatory to keep them snug over the winter months.
She was awarded a British Empire Medal in 2015 and receives an invitation to an OBE ceremony at St Paul’s Cathedral every year.
“I don’t do it for the recognition but it really does feel nice to be acknowledged for what I do,” says Barbara.
Barbara, who lives off only her pension, has worked out that she spends over £12,000 of her own money rehabilitating wildlife each year.
“We are a registered charity but I hardly get any funding so I spend my own money on making them all better. I get very, very few donations. I go through over 3,000 tins of dog and cat food every three months, as well as paying for vet fees, amputations for the badly injured hedgehogs, medicines, and electricity to keep the incubators up and running.
“I don’t go on holiday, I don’t drink and I don’t smoke. This is my hobby and I love it. It’s my money well spent. I just wish more people would do more for wildlife – it really needs more attention.”
She would also like the council to allow her to get a sign put up directly outside her house to enable people to find her property when people need help with injured critters.
Barbara will spend Christmas Day with her 400 hedgehogs, eight pet dogs, 20 rabbits and tortoises.
“Christmas will just be a normal day for me,” she says. “Usually my day starts at around 5am. I wake up and feed all the animals and make sure everything is kept clean and tidy. It’s easier for me to keep on top of it all that way.”
However, she makes sure that all the animals get turkey meat, or turkey flavoured food, to mark the occasion and also makes sure that all her canine companions get a little treat on the day.
“I will be content with all my animals this Christmas. They will snuggle up to me and keep me company.”
If you would like to donate cat or dog food to The Withington Hedgehog Trust, visit her Facebook page.