Oak and Furrows founder Serena Stevens can trace her love of wildlife back to a childhood home full of birds and animals.

Her wildlife rescue centre has been running since 1994, but hit the headlines at the end of last year when plunged into a funding crisis. Poet Pam Ayres made a £3000 donation after winning Celebrity Mastermind – but the campaign to raise money and keep the centre open is continual.

“This centre is my passion,” Serena said. “A month ago, I thought that was it. Now the funding is looking better, but we still need a fundraiser.”

The centre, which relocated from Somerford Keynes to the Blakehill Nature Reserve in 2015, currently hosts 152 young hedgehogs, as well as a roe deer suffering concussion from a road accident, an orphan Muntjac deer and birds of prey. Come spring, the hedgehogs will be returned to the wild and an avalanche of baby animals is likely to need the services of Serena’s devoted team.

“When hedgehogs are born later in the year, they often can’t hibernate because they haven’t gained enough weight. We find them out in daytime, so we keep them here till April or May,” she explained.

One shed, heated to keep its vulnerable residents warm, is piled with hedgehogs in rows and rows of cages – a hedgehog tower block – as each animal must have its own space, and all require daily food, water and care. It is an immense undertaking.

Everything about the operation speaks of the devotion of Serena brings to the task – a concern for animal welfare nurtured by her grandmother and passed to her own children. The childhood described sounds like something from a children’s novel and indeed she was a keen reader of animal stories.

“I was brought up by my Gran, who was animal bonkers,” she said. “I read books by James Herriot and Gerald Durrell. I had two rooks, a jackdaw, foxes. At one point we had 11 dogs, as well as horses, donkeys, rabbits – every animal you could possibly wish for. Her respect for animals was so strong. Her respect for life was incredible. She was the most amazing lady ever.”

The rescue centre itself was set up in response to Serena’s daughter Millie’s love of animals. Millie suffered from Cystic Fibrosis but always cared for injured animals. Sadly she died when she was just eight years old, but Serena vowed to continue with wildlife rescue in her memory.

The centre operated out of the garden and sheds to begin with, then moved to Somerford Keynes, before setting up in its current location.

Now it has eight members of staff and a team of 60 volunteers, and they care for injured and vulnerable animals from as far afield as Gloucester and Oxford – about a 35-mile radius. The RSPCA, vets, the police and members of the public all bring in animals, or they are collected in one of three animal ambulances run by the centre.

“We do encourage people to bring animals in themselves,” Serena said. “And we always need more volunteer drivers.”

As the profile of the centre has risen, so has demand on its services.

Oak and Furrows received 7000 phone calls last year, and dealt with 4,500 animal casualties. While staff are happy to help more animals, it has caused some difficulties in terms of keeping up with demand. It costs £24 to treat a hedgehog for ringworm, for example.

“We’re getting more and more well known, and the last four years, it has increased every year. Hundreds of animals a year turned onto thousands,” she explained.

From time to time, more unusual animals need some care and attention – such as seabirds and reptiles.

“Once someone brought in what they though were badger cubs – but it turned out they were black and white kittens!” she recalled with a smile.

The name of the centre is another link to Millie: “The oak was Millie’s tree – we planted one for her. The land had ridge and furrows, so we used the name Oak and Furrows,” Serena said. “This was the land in Somerford Keynes. At first it was an empty cow field with some broken down huts, no buildings, but that’s where we had the first centre.”

The new centre, on land belonging to the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, was purpose-built using a legacy, and Serena said the arrangement worked well for both the trust and the wildlife rescue centre. It costs around £20,000 a month to keep the centre running – with the high cost of fuel, feed and vets’ bills, as well as salaries for staff.

“We do all sorts of fundraising – we have a Just Giving page, membership, quiz nights, events, raffles, a pop-up shop in Swindon – all sorts,” she said.

Pam Ayres MBE is patron of the centre, along with Daphne Neville OBE. The association with Pam Ayres began when she brought a hedgehog into the centre.

“She’s a lovely woman, very down to earth,” Serena said.

In an ideal world, with more funding, Serena would like more improvements – an otter pen and another for water fowl, for example.

“I’d like another building for hedgehogs, and another for hand-rearing baby animals. And more education and talks, animal First Aid courses.” She has plenty of ideas.

Education is a key issue, and Serena is keen to encourage people to take an interest in the needs of wildlife.

“Make your garden wildlife friendly. Put gaps under fences for the hedgehogs, build a pond, add pants and flowers and trees that will make your garden a place for wildlife,” she advised. Serena would also like people to be more aware of how to provide initial care for wildlife casualties, and when to leave them alone.

“If you are not sure, pick up the phone and call us,” she said. “Ring for advice if you are in doubt. You absolutely won’t be bothering us.”

The centre is busy with comings and goings. Even as she speaks, the phone is always ringing, a retired couple come in simply to make a generous cash donation, and a young woman arrives with a poorly pigeon.

While many people love hedgehogs and otter cubs and orphan deer, pigeons are not so uniformly an object of affection – yet Serena says she is particularly fond of these birds, and that is because Millie loved them.

For more information about the centre and ways to support it, visit oandf.co.uk, and for advice on a sick, injured or orphaned animal, call 01793 751412.