A NORTH-EAST farm dedicated to helping autistic adults learn new skills has become home to some prickly new residents.

Twelve baby hedgehogs are the latest arrivals at the North East Autism Society’s New Warlands Farm, on the outskirts of Durham, and staff are pleased to report that the youngsters have settled in well.

The farm provides engaging educational and therapy programmes for autistic adults throughout the region.

The juvenile hogs were rehomed by Pawz for Thought, a County Durham animal rehabilitation charity which rescues and rehabilitates vulnerable wildlife.

Pawz for Thought volunteer Simon Peer decided New Warlands would make a perfect hedgehog habitat when he visited the farm for a job interview.

The Sunderland resident said: “New Warlands has everything that a hedgehog could want. There’s lots of cover in the hedgerows, brambles, and deciduous woodland, and there’s plenty of water and food.

“Windfall apples in particular are a hedgehog delicacy. When the fruit drops and starts to ferment, the hedgehogs eat it and get a bit tipsy, so I expect they will love the orchard at New Warlands!”

Simon arranged for the twelve rescued hogs to be housed at New Warlands, and they quickly made themselves at home in six hedgehog houses handcrafted for them by the farm’s service users.

Ian Patterson, the farm’s programme manager, said: “It’s lovely to see the hedgehogs settling in so well. We know they’ve taken to the farm because they spent a few nights in our hedgehog houses, before wandering off to make their own homes around the site.

“We’ve spotted them a few times during nature walks, and it’s been really nice for our service users to see them. They’re a great addition to the farm’s wildlife. We now have hedgehogs, barn owls, foxes, deer, and more living on the land.

“We want to say a big thank you to Simon for his time. Seeing our service users’ faces light up when he arrived with the baby hogs was great. It was an experience they’ve never had before, and Simon deserves the credit for making that happen.”

In 2017, NEAS adopted the albino hedgehog Snowdrop the Spike Shuffler – from the children’s book of the same name by former Northern Echo editor Peter Barron – as one of its official mascots, making the choice of home especially fitting.

Simon, whose son Rhys has Asperger’s syndrome, will be joining the New Warlands staff in November as a Programme Support Worker. He will be supporting autistic adults on the farm’s wide range of activities, including woodwork, horticulture, and textiles.

He said: “I’m really looking to joining the NEAS team. I’m looking forward to the challenge, and to meeting and working alongside some great new people.”