Annette Risley first began caring for wildlife in 1987 while she was working for the campaign group, Animal Aid in Tonbridge. An injured hedgehog had been brought into the office by a member of the public and being rather fond of hedgehogs, she took it home to treat it.
Over the next few years, more hedgehogs followed, and on moving to Eridge in 1993, the work (which at the time was really little more than a hobby) continued, but already, small numbers of injured birds and other animals were being admitted.
In 1994, with the number of admissions rapidly rising, Annette realized that there was a real need for a service of this nature and so Folly Wildlife Rescue (named after the cottage where she and her family lived) was born!
As the years went by the numbers of animals and birds coming to the centre continued to increase, so that as well as hedgehogs and small birds, other, larger animals, such as foxes, deer, swans and badgers began to make an appearance, and as more and more pens and aviaries were built, the operation rapidly grew.
As word of the group’s work spread, like-minded people began to offer their services as volunteers, and by now they were desperately needed, as in 2000, admissions had for the first time passed a 1000.
Additionally, as costs began to rise, it also became necessary to devote more time to fundraising activities, and so groups of volunteers began to hold stalls, carry out street collections and attend school fêtes and other events.
In November of that year, there were two major breakthroughs, the first being a donation of £5000 by Sir Paul McCartney, in memory of his late wife Linda, and the second, the assistance Folly started to receive from the Crowborough, East Grinstead branch of the RSPCA, who not only donated a wide range of equipment, but our first wildlife ambulance too!
The First Ever Hedgehog Admitted To Folly Wildlife Rescue - 1987
In 2002, in a move to put the group on a more stable footing, registered charity status was applied for, and when this was granted in March of that year, The Folly Wildlife Rescue Trust, registered charity number 1091857 officially came into being!
But problems were brewing. Casualty admissions were by now rising rapidly, putting further pressure on the already inadequate facilities at Folly Cottage, and it was becoming obvious that in the long term, the operation could not be sustained. Operating as it did, from just a garage, a few sheds and a collection of pens and aviaries (and with no proper provisions for drainage, electricity or its staff), it was likely, that before very long, the charity would be overwhelmed.
The Original Intensive Care Unit
Urgent action was therefore needed, and at a meeting of the Trustees in late 2004, it was decided that the only practical answer was for the Trust to set up its own wildlife hospital.
In early 2005, the Wildlife Centre Project was launched, with the aim of raising, within 5 years, the £185,000 that it was estimated would be needed to establish it (and which as it turned out, was grossly underestimated!)
The Original Avaries
To our amazement, the idea proved to be a popular one, and funds quickly began to come in. The core of this funding was a ‘Founder’ system, whereby individuals, animal welfare and grant-making trusts, companies and even schools, agreed to sponsor £250 ‘units’ of funding for the project.
By 2008, much of the money had been secured, and more importantly, in October of that year, a potential site on the Broadwater Forest, near Tunbridge Wells, had been identified. The following year, a planning application (that enjoyed huge public support), was submitted to Wealden District Council, and in January 2010 permission for the hospital was granted.
Polytunnel Number One
The site at Fairview Lane had formally operated as a commercial nursery, and extended to 5 acres. It was a lovely spot, but before work could commence, two large polytunnels had to be removed and a vast amount of rubbish cleared.
This work took the rest of the year, but in early 2011 we were finally ready to go and on January 24th, work finally began!
Polytunnel Number Two
In the 6 months that followed, the site was cleared, groundworks put in, electricity, water and drainage installed, and the three building put up. A further 9 months were required for the fitting out, but everything was then ready to go, and on April 9th 2012, the new hospital opened its doors for the first casualty admission (a hedgehog as it happened!).
From The Archives: Folly Wildlife Rescue In Kent, Taken From The 'Inside Out' Programme On BBC South-East In January 2007
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With the endless stream of wildlife casualties brought in to Folly Wildlife Rescue we are continually looking for stocks of essential items to aid recovery. With the introduction of our new nursery we will be able to cater for even more little babies, and with that comes more expense and that is where you, our supporters, may be able to help.
Our Amazon Wish List is updated frequently with all the essential items we needr. Your support is absolutely invaluable to us and every item purchased is a vital saving for our charity.
An adoption pack makes a great gift for a birthday or Christmas (or you can always treat yourself!) and is a very practical way to help hedgehogs in distress.
As well as illnesses and injuries the species is now seriously threatened by loss of habitat and housing developments, increased road traffic and unsympathetic farming practices