With the rest of Dorset braced to welcome even more visitors than usual this summer with the pandemic casting uncertainty over holidays abroad, a dairy farm in the area is welcoming a different kind of visitor.

Hollis Mead organic dairy at Hooke, near Beaminster, haves opened a hedgehog hotel.

The farm wants to ensure this prickled favourite of the British countryside can thrive.

Hollis Mead proclaims to hold the protection and encouragement of nature as central to their farming approach and has adopted more than 40 hedgehogs.

They hope that the biodiversity, farming methods and extensive habitats available on their farm will give a boost to dwindling hedgehog numbers, which have halved in the last 20 years.

Habitat loss and industrial farming practice is thought to be the key driver in their demise and hedgehogs are now listed as “vulnerable to extinction” on the Red List for British Mammals.

It’s because of Hollis Mead’s commitment to nature that they were allowed to adopt the hedgehogs. Rehousing them in a safe home where they’re able to thrive is essential to their survival.

Farm owner Oliver Hemsley said: “Our soil is packed with bugs and worms for the hedgehogs to gorge on, they can play all they like in the 15 miles of hedgerows we’ve planted.

"They can sunbathe by the pond if they like – and we don’t charge for towels."

Mr Hemsley said the threat to hedgehogs comes from the effort to produce cheaper food in this country.

He added: "We’ve seriously abused our local environment: bird life, bug life, plant life, mammals, even soil quality have all taken the brunt of prolonged chemical and mechanical warfare on nature."

Hollis Mead has a strict zero tolerance policy on any use of herbicides, pesticides, insecticides, or artificial fertiliser anywhere on the farm. They’re also deeply committed to protecting their ground nesting birds – like skylarks - who have also faced mass decline in recent years. According to the RSPB there is now only one skylark for every five there were in 1975.

“Not rolling our fields or cutting our silage until much later in the year means that skylarks – which are building their nests right now – are able to survive and breed without them or their chicks being bulldozed”, Mr Hemsley said.

Hollis Mead sells its milk, butter, yoghurt, cream and kefir out of vending machines across Dorset and the south west in places such as the Brace of Butchers in Poundbury, with their latest machine opening in Bridport next month.

Mr Helmsley said: “Selling our milk out of vending machines means we’re able to keep yields low. We have a small herd that we milk just once a day who’re constantly moved to different areas of the farm so as not to put undue pressure on the land."

For more information see hollismeadorganicdairy.co.uk