Phil, The EastEnders Hedgehog
By Gill Newbery
One evening in October last year I received a call from a camera lady who was working on the EastEnders set at Borehamwood. She told me that she had found a little hedgehog in the Square.
He had a plastic ring (like those that are used to connect four cans together) around his body which was so tight that it had embedded itself into his skin.
I agreed to meet her at the entrance and phone her when I arrived. I found the studio entrance, and was given a visitor pass and signed into the visitor book.
Liz, the camera lady, met me and we went through a series of alleyways, round buildings, and arrived in The Square. They had put the hedgehog in ‘Phil’s garage’ in a bucket covered with wood.
On examining him I could see he was a lot smaller than he needed to be to survive hibernation. Although the crew had removed the ring it had left an indentation where the ring had grown into the skin.
The skin was now red and infected.
I took ‘Phil the hedgehog’ home with promises to let them know how he did, and they said that they would like him to come back to the set if possible.
As hedgehogs have to be over 600 grams to be able to survive hibernation and Phil was only 300g, he had to be kept indoors and warm so that he would continue to eat and not go into hibernation.
I gave him antibiotics for his wound, wormed him and treated him for fleas and he immediately tucked into a hearty meal of dog food! His wound healed well but left him with a little ‘waist’ where the ring had been and the prickles had not grown back.
He stayed inside until he weighed 800g, and in December I introduced him and several others to the outside pen so that he could hibernate.
He did hibernate for a few weeks, but with it being a relatively mild winter he did wake up quite frequently. I kept a close eye on him until March, when he was fully awake and ready for release.
I contacted Liz from EastEnders, and she said that they would love to have him back on the set and although she was not working there herself, she arranged for me to meet a colleague of hers who would take me to the place we had discussed as a suitable release site.
So on Good Friday this year we arrived at the studios with Phil, now very active and ready for release.
My children, Samantha, 14, and Simon, 9, came with me. We were given visitor passes and met by Peter, a lovely cameraman who took us round to the set.
We met Wendy Richard (a/k/a Pauline Fowler) and had some official photos taken outside the Vic and in the allotment area. Wendy was lovely. She asked us lots of questions about hedgehogs. And although she did stroke Phil, she was a little bit anxious about holding him in case he prickled her.
We also said hello to Letitia Dean (Sharon) and Dennis (Nigel Harman) and some of the other members of the cast who were outside having some lunch.
The spot chosen for his release was a disused area behind the allotments, where there were some steps with space underneath where he could have his bed, which we had brought along with us to provide him with something familiar to help him settle.
I settled his box under the steps with some food and water, leaving some extra with Peter for later.
Then Peter gave us a tour of the set. It was fascinating ... how the houses, shops and pub were just facades, how they had to spray the food in the shop as it kept getting taken and eaten. How the café and pub and inside of the houses were all inside two big studios and how the houses could be changed by bringing different wallpapered scenery boards into place.
My son was allowed to see how a camera worked, and we saw the unit used when they film on location.
At the time we were there Janine was under investigation and the car lot was all boarded up, but Peter was not allowed to tell us too much as obviously the storyline is very secretive!
It was a great day, and the crew kindly made us a generous donation to Hog Heaven, our hedgehog charity.
It turned out that Phil was fed for about two weeks, and then I got a phone call that there were two hedgehog bottoms protruding from the food bowl—Phil had found a friend.
This was brilliant news as although there were gardens right behind the site I was unsure if there were other hedgehogs still around there. Now I knew that there were and Phil was very likely to have a family of his own.
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