Today started with promising dry weather. While Clare was looking at birds on the flash we’d moored up alongside, I tried cleaning moorhen muck off the pram cover. It turns out that even on plastic flexible windows the First Rule of Window Cleaning applies: it’s on the other side! After we’d set off, the drizzle started again and gradually turned into heavy rain as we worked through the locks on the way in to Wigan. These are our first experiences of double locks on Bartimaeus.
Clare had again opted to work the locks, with me occasionally closing a gate or a paddle to save her walking all the way round the locks. Once or twice it looked like she was going to be defeated by the weight of some of the gates, but generally it was a case of waiting long enough for the water to equalise, or trying the other gate first.
At the bottom of the lock in the middle of Wigan, Clare shouted: “There’s a hedgehog in the lock!” I went to the front of the boat and indeed, swimming weakly, there was a hedgehog. I got the gangplank and tried to get it under its feet. At the time I thought it might have been scared of me, but I now think it was just too weak to walk. After a few failed attempts I realised I needed to get nearer. Clare was unable to get to the boat, so I went to the back again and drove gently forward. After another failed attempt I left the throttle on 10% forward – it doesn’t mention it in the manual, but this seems to be the ideal speed for hedgehog rescuing.
After several more failed attempts, I passed the rope to Clare and then rested the far end of the gangplank on it. A few failed attempts resulted in the poor hedgehog slipping off in to the water. Each time it bobbed back up and I tried again. Eventually with Clare lifting the rope at just the right moment we got it on to the bow hatch.
It didn’t look well, but was still breathing. I fetched a pair of suitable gloves and lifted it in to the bow deck where it would be secure while we got out of the lock and moored up.
We got the wren’s nest out to use as a more comfortable base than the metal deck, and put some cardboard over as a kind of tent.
It looked very sorry for itself, and was hardly moving at all. During the afternoon the weather improved, and the hedgehog gradually started to dry out and look more like a hedgehog should. It started to wander around the deck area, at one point basking in the sunshine.
After dinner this evening we had a very enjoyable chat via Jitsi Meet with friends from Edinburgh, Cath and Michael. The hedgehog dominated the conversation for a good proportion of the chat.
Afterwards we checked on the hedgehog. It had now left several calling cards on the deck, and had settled down back in the wren’s nest, having previously used the cardboard box as a nest. We decided to lift it on to shore hoping that it could use the night to find a better place to be by morning. Clare went to see it less than half an hour later and found it had gone. So we hope that means it has recovered from its ordeal.
We’re doing well on our schedule, but not well enough to take the hedgehog back to Wigan. Let’s hope it enjoys rural Lancashire – we certainly are.