We had moored up by the Wigan flashes but not really studied them so I went out in the morning to find there were little steps right opposite the boat to take me to the waters edge.  Straightaway I saw a cormorant taking of across the water. I could see greylag geese and swans and ducks and some smaller birds that we later identified as lapwings and though they were far away, so I couldn’t photograph them, I could certainly hear them.




Views left and right from the bank of the flash.

A kingfisher flashed by on the canal as I turned to go back to the boat. I met a couple with binoculars who regularly walked there to see the birds. It was a lovely calm start to the day

We couldn’t stay long though as several large locks to get through. I opted to try to work the locks and they were all a bit different with different opening mechanisms and very heavy gates and  it had started to rain. We got to Wigan and passed the famous Wigan pier but I’ve been there before and remembered it looking very old and it looked like a modern version had replaced it.

We had left the Leigh branch of the Leeds and Liverpool canal and turned into the main Leeds and Liverpool. We headed for the next lock and the rain was getting quite heavy.  Everything is a bit awkward being wide and the winding is high up and there are anti vandal locks on them to open up with a ” handcuff key” (though there are no handcuffs). On this one the anti-vandal locks have been vandalised! They were filed down. That made it a bit easier for me. The lock was nearly empty and I was looking in to see if it was ready to open when I thought I saw a dead rat floating in the water, a bit bloated. Then I thought the legs were moving. Were they were being moved by the flow of water, or was it swimming? It didn’t have a long tail like a rat… Then I saw a head come up and then submerge again. “Shane! I think there is a hedgehog in the lock!” Shane came to look then sprang into action – he got the gangplank off the roof and standing on the bow, tried to reach the hedgehog, but it was now in the far corner of the lock. He moved the boat forward in the lock and tried to get close enough. Eventually, he got the gangplank under the hedgehog, but only the front of the hedgehog was on it and it fell back unable to get its hind legs on, or unaware of was being rescued. This happened repeatedly with Shane calling entreatingly “Come on, Mr Hedgehog!” I was afraid Shane might slip and fall but he assured me he was stable. I thought if I pulled the bow rope I could bring the boat right into the corner and Shane threw it up to me and I pulled it over a bit.  Shane got an idea that putting the rope under the gangplank, might help with the lifting. He directed the plank I pulled the rope to raise it gradually when he’d got it below the hedgehog. At last we got it. It was wet through and exhausted. 

We moored up outside the lock and made use of the wren’s nest and some paper and cardboard round it to make a warmer dry spot to lie on than the wet metal floor in the rain. Hedgehogs eat meat and are lactose intolerant so we felt we had nothing to feed it. I searched for a slug, but it was too drained/ scared to pay attention and the slug got away unscathed.

We had lunch and carried on to the next  lock where two boats were already in and I asked if they had cat or dog food and explained why I wanted meat and both boats were keen to try and offer. One had a pouch of cat food so I took that. Throughout our the day we kept eye on the patient, with regular checks and progress reports. The sun came out and dragonflies and butterflies felt it was warm enough and that helped dry out the spines, I’m sure, but we had the cardboard and a bag placed so it could hide from the sunlight if it needed too. 



Trying to coax the hedgehog to eat some cat food, once it has perked up.

By evening we had seen it eat, drink and explore each corner of the bow well that he was secured in. Plus there was evidence that his digestive system was working.

We had an arrangement in the evening to do a jitsimeet with a couple of Edinburgh friends so of course Cath and Michael were regaled with the whole saga with dramatic representation of swimming, flailing and flopped hedgehog. We had a very enjoyable chat with them on other topics too and hope they might join us on Bartimaeus later this year, perhaps October.

Hedgehog was sleeping back in the nest, on top of the paper bag, when we went to check, after dark. Shane lifted it and the bag out to the hedge. Later I saw the slug, that had escaped earlier, inside the boat so I took it out and went to the hedge, and the bag was lying there but the hedgehog had gone so here’s hoping it’s fully recovered!