Last week we had some very upsetting news to report on here at The Bucks Herald.
Tiggywinkles founder Les Stocker had passed away suddenly while returning from a well earned holiday.
Shock and sadness reverberated around the newsroom, our thoughts were firmly with his lovely wife Sue, son Colin, his daughter in law, beloved grandchildren and the Tiggywinkles team.
So we set about preparing a tribute for the man who cared so much for the natural world, who couldn’t stand the idea that any suffering animal would just be put to sleep by a vet, rather than cared for with the dignity they deserve.
Les was a champion for the underdog as well as the underbadger, the underhedgehog, the underpigeon and the underfox!
A trip to Tiggywinkles of my own with an injured baby jackdaw hammered home to me the true extent of the centre’s caring work. That evening the A&E area at the hospital was packed. Our bucket of baby bird waiting in line behind two injured hedgehogs, a little Tupperware container of baby voles, and a duck with a broken wing - each mattering to the team as much as the last. It was a humbling experience.
The last time I spoke to Les was while working on a story with Tiggywinkles about a recent Blue Peter visit. He was one of my favourite contacts, and I always looked forward to an animal chat. Sometimes it was just a case of asking for advice on a wildlife story, and his door was always open.
I remember a particularly funny exchange, when I informed him that footage of an overweight hedgehog being cared for by Tiggywinkles for had been viewed by millions on YouTube, as part of a quirky viral music video.
Even in the midst of our giggles Les wanted to hammer home the importance of Tiggywinkles’ work, and was chuffed to bits that so many people had seen ‘Fatts’ on the internet around the world.
Les’ final column runs in this paper with the blessing of his family. And regular readers will join me I’m sure in saying thank you to one of this area’s most courageous, caring and good-hearted people. Les Stocker MBE.