A TEENAGER from Kendal who regained his confidence after being bullied by creating a hedgehog ‘estate’ on his allotment gave a popular nature programme a tour of his wildlife haven.

Robert, who attends Settlebeck School, has been busy with his dad Mark building houses to help protect the vulnerable species and showcased his work on last night’s Springwatch.

The 17-year-old, who has autism and learning disabilities, has used the project to help him rebuild his confidence after he was badly bullied.

“Robert has educational needs,” said Mark.

“He has autism and some learning disabilities, which weren’t diagnosed until a few years ago.

“Because he was a bit different, he was really badly bullied and that really knocked his confidence and had a massive impact on his wellbeing.”

The Westmorland Gazette: BOND: Robert and dad MarkBOND: Robert and dad Mark

“I went downhill,” said Robert.

“And it took four years to deal with it.

“In that time I got my diagnosis of autism.

“It didn’t change who I was, but it meant other people understood.”

Robert has always loved wildlife, but his passion grew when his family took on an allotment and he set out to transform the space into a wildlife area.

The Westmorland Gazette: ATTENTIVE: Robert has turned the allotment space into a wildlife havenATTENTIVE: Robert has turned the allotment space into a wildlife haven

He created a path flanked by wildflowers, a pond and soon set his sights on a bigger project.

“We took on the allotment that was a safe place for him, a different place for him to be outside and get his hands dirty and build things,” said Mark.

“I’ve always been into wildlife and conservation,” said Robert.

The allotment soon attracted a wide range of wildlife and Robert’s mum gave him the idea of building hedgehog houses.

The Westmorland Gazette: CUTE: Hedgehogs are vulnerable to extinctionCUTE: Hedgehogs are vulnerable to extinction

“I came up with the idea of creating an estate of hedgehog houses on the allotment,” he said.

“We have about 13 or 15 on the allotment.

“They were here first, and it’s nice to give something back.”

The houses come with CCTV security and provide a safe place of refuge for the animals.

Robert wants to turn his talents into a career and is looking further into joinery and woodwork.

The Westmorland Gazette: CRAFTSMANSHIP: One of Robert's hedgehog housesCRAFTSMANSHIP: One of Robert's hedgehog houses

“He’s been lucky enough to be offered a college course in architectural joinery,” said Mark.

“It’s helped build his confidence and it’s got him talking to the other allotment holders, local vets.”

Settlebeck School spoke of its pride of the teen.

“Since joining our school in Year 8 it has been a pleasure to watch this young man grow in confidence and pursue his interests,” said a spokesman.