Rat Trap

Getting rid of rubbish is one of the things we need to deal with along the way. Different places have different facilities and some recycling can be hard to get rid of. There is some inconsiderate dumping and littering around the canal, but you can’t always tell. Something could be accidental or bagged rubbish could have been ripped open by a scavenging animal. We try to get rid of compostable/biodegradable rubbish in a random hedge or, better still, a bed of nettles.This is harder in the city. Once out of the centre of London I was in need of a place to dispose of it. We were moored beside some sparse vegetation by a wall with no huge hedge or nettlebed, but there was one bigger plant, and I thought a little could go there. On closer inspection I found it was a tomato plant. Someone surely threw some veggie scraps here before. It was a bit of a rubbish place to leave  lot of peelings though, so I had a look around.

Wild growing tomato plant

Further along was a larger tree with a bit more vegetation and ground cover so I thought that might be a better place. When I reached the tree there were two black boxes – rat traps. If this was a place with a vermin problem then the locals would not want some scraps thrown out to feed the population. I reconsidered, taking my peelings back in again and waited for another opportunity, a better, wilder spot, further out of London.

Slough Arm looks quite a lot wilder. It looked very pretty. We were delighted with kingfishers right at the start. As usual they were hard to photograph. We hadn’t gone far when I saw something strange in the water. Was this here by accident or design?

There were swathes of water plants and we had to push them off the nose a couple of times. Then as we got into the final third, Shane was down the hatch cutting off nylon cords and plastic as well as removing slimy weed. Our progress was so slow that a rat swam faster than the boat.

After a few stops we decided to call it a day. I was afraid it would get dark with us not yet moored up if we tried to go to the end. After mooring I spotted that there were a lot of gulls swooping at the nearby bridge. There were also several rats swimming back and forth across. Now I wasn’t sure I wanted to be by so many rats. I walked up to the bridge and realised it was because someone had tipped a large amount of bread into the water creating a feast for scavenging hordes. There were several sizes of rat. They did run off but only when you got within six feet. I heard a child on the bridge above shout, “oh look a mouse!” Perhaps that was a younger rat. There was a lot of litter around the bridge and I am guessing packaging is just being chucked over the bridge into the water below. There are two litter bins at the bridge so there is no real reason to do so. I decided that most urban areas have lots of rats. We had seen the odd one at both London moorings. We saw them in Manchester, Wolverhampton, Warwick and elsewhere. They do like water and swim very well. However, they were possibly only in abundance beside that bread so I was reassured they wouldn’t run up our ropes.

In the morning we got to the basin, turned and moored at the end with no further difficulty from slime or plastic. I had a bit of a look around. There were lots of pretty wild flowers. And also another rat at the very end.

I was very pleased to be in Slough. Cath used to live there so I was sharing pictures to prove we had made it there and our friend Heather was arriving that afternoon to join us for a while. In town we had a tasty lunch and the fish shops were beautifully laid out. One fishmonger handed me his leaflet about their restaurant, in the fish shop. “You choice we cook”. I knew we had little chance of going in as we had already eaten.

Pick a fish and they will cook it

We were very pleased to have Heather aboard again. Apart from being very good company, she is a great cook, already knows how to lock and drive well, takes excellent photos and blogs as well. She may have been itching to get going but we delayed leaving because of the short time and dodgy progress in the sludgy littered end of arm. We took a walk and enjoyed the sights. Moorhens are a favourite of both Heather and me. There were some on the path ahead. And there there was a rat on the path ahead. Luckily she is not at all fazed by rats and delights in most wildlife. Less attractive, and by no means accidental was the sight, by the water point, of a trolley. It would make going to the water point very hard if you didn’t know where it was.

Trolley lurking in the water at the Slough water point

On the way back, as Heather has already shared, the going was very slow and I opted to go down to the weedhatch this time. My first foray brought up an IKEA bag, among other things. That certainly stopped the propeller working. Did that get chucked in or blown in? We actually saw a man throw a plastic bag of rubbish into the canal. I cannot see why. At any rate plenty of wildlife was surviving. Our propeller wasn’t liking it one bit and I was down the hatch another two times, bring up sparkly clothing and lots of slimy weed. When it rained an umbrella was brought out and held over me and Heather held my feet so I felt able to delve deeper. I did get pretty gritty hair and had a shower soon after. Worse I managed to get some canal water in my mouth from the dripping rubbish and weed. I think next time I will wear a face mask down there. We wanted to dispose of the rubbish responsibly. I decided to sort it into biodegradable and non biodegradable. It didn’t take too long. It was about half and half.

At the end of the afternoon, though we had had a nice cruise, I was suddenly not feeling good at all and made a dash for the loo. I hogged it for a considerable time and hoped the others weren’t needing in as I didn’t seem to be able to get out. As soon as I tried I had to return urgently. Heather and Shane had a very unpleasant background noise as my system thoroughly emptied. They could have had a pleasant evening and better loo acces by heading to the nearby pub but they kindly stayed on hand to check I was okay. They also used their time well by disposing appropriately of the sorted piles of weed and rubbish.

I retreated to bed with a basin and Shane brought sweet herbal tea. They were no longer trapped in the living area with no toilet access. Heather made them a delicious curry and me if I wanted,. I had no desire to join but I was revelling in the joy of being able to lie down and be neither shivering nor sweating. I am glad to say I slept pretty well and managed to rehydrate further in the morning. By lunchtime I was up to eating. By the afternoon I was doing a little locking and by tea time I was cooking potato curry and enjoying Heather’s curry alongside my own.

I was still a bit tired the next day, despite lots of sleep. I still wasn’t fancying coffee so the tiredness may have been partly lack of caffeine. I am blaming the canal water and it is very good it wasn’t infectious. Once all the bad stuff was out it was pretty much recovery mode.

Heather and I went to work a lock. I was really struggling with closing the gate. Was I that weakened? Heather came over to help. It was really hard to move even with both of us. The gates were very uneven and when we attempted to empty the lock, water was rushing in a gap between them. Heather and I shut the paddles and tried moving the gates several times to see if they would sit better, but no. We were being watched by a man with binoculars then cam eand spoke to us about it. Another boat and their crew came and then Shane to survey the scene.

There was a new gouge in the gate which suggested the most recent boat had caught its nose and lifted the gate as the water rose. The lock was unusable. We were trapped right here. A boater from the other side came to report on what CRT had said and to generally chat to us. Shane joked we should swap boats. It emerged her boats washing machine was broken and she had three leaks in her toilet. Okay let’s not swap boats!

If you are going to be trapped, then near a nature reserve and a supermarket is excellent. We thought it may be for quite some time. In fact they managed to fix it the same day. We enjoyed the nature reserve and I got some knitting done, deciding to set off the next day. Heather had an extra walk and reported seeing an unusual animal and described it. We decided it was a muntjac. At night we heard eerie barking noises and I remembered Bryn saying the muntjac had a very strange call and he confirmed it was as we described: a pre Halloween spook. In the morning we saw a muntjac in the field opposite our mooring.

Shane cast off. Heather and I walked to the lock and managed the gates much more easily and it was again a delight that something once broken was fixed. We were free to move once more and we had some tanks to fill and empty. It would not have been good to have been trapped for long needing a pump out. I went to the supermarket while they went to the water point. On the way in I saw a green box….another rat trap…around the back away from the gaze of most customers.

There’s been a rat near the supermarket, or this trap is just a precaution

I bought a “neep” as part of the shopping, since it was Halloween. I had seen a few decorated boats. I was feeling well and while I was driving into the lock Shane pointed out a sign on the bridge behind me. I think it should say Offenders will get their own comeuppance.

I decided on my neepie lantern theme, making a rat from a lemon (I do like a citrus fruit lantern but I didn’t hollow this one out) and a zigzag mouth on my neep reminiscent of the old fashioned traps seen in museums, for rats and even men.