Back from the bank holiday weekend

I arrived back yesterday afternoon from the bank holiday weekend spent at Felin Uchaf, the quiet little camp site I went to at Easter, and though I wish I could say it had been a great weekend I can’t, as yet again the great British weather destroyed most of my plans. After days of hot sunshine and blue skies right up to last Friday the long weekend was, for me at least, a mixture of light drizzle, torrential rain, mist and grey skies, with the sun finally putting in a short appearance late on Sunday afternoon. I still managed to get out and about with the camera but not to where I really wanted to go, and several of the photos I took on Monday were ruined by raindrops on the camera lens even though I was sheltering under an umbrella. Needless to say, now I’m back at work the weather today has been absolutely glorious!
I took just 68 shots over the three days – that number would have been a lot more in good weather – and nine of those were totally ruined by the rain. My ‘tigermousetales’ blog will soon be updated with a full account of the weekend and the best of the rest will find their way onto there, however here’s a few smaller versions as an example.
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View over the lake at Bala
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A brief bit of sunshine
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The Llangollen canal
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An amusing canal-side sign
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A misty view at Chirk castle gardens
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Is it me, or is this stupid?

As I was coming home from work this morning I was overtaken by this vehicle; there was nothing remarkable about the vehicle itself but what did attract my attention were the two big dogs in the back. They both had harnesses on and were obviously fastened in somehow, but it struck me that transporting dogs in this way is a pretty stupid thing to do. I dread to think what would happen if the vehicle were to be involved in an accident – if it was, those dogs wouldn’t have much of a chance, they would either be seriously injured or even killed.
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I don’t know who the driver was or where he was going, but I very much suspect that he often transports his dogs like that. Convenience, unthinking ignorance or just plain stupidity? I don’t know, but for the dogs’ sake I just hope he never is involved in any kind of accident – the possible outcome really doesn’t bear thinking about.

A reservoir ramble

It was another gloriously sunny spring day and though I had several things which needed doing at home I ditched them all in favour of going out on a long walk with the dogs round Entwistle reservoir, a place I hadn’t been to since this time last year and which was only just over six miles north of home. Designed by a local land surveyor and constructed in 1832 the reservoir dam is 110 metres long at the crest and 108 feet high and it was, back then, the highest in Britain. The reservoir itself contains almost 750 thousand gallons and coupled with the nearby Wayoh reservoir satisfies about half of Bolton’s need for drinking water.
My walk started from the car park at the south end of the reservoir and at one end of the dam; a wooden gate led to the waterside path and it wasn’t long before I got my first three shots. A large pine forest bordered the reservoir, separated from the path by a stone wall, and alongside the wall benches were set at intervals. As I headed further west the reservoir got narrower, finally ending in a shallow stream crossed by a wooden bridge.
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Looking west
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Looking back towards the dam
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The western end
The path split into two by the bridge, with one part running alongside the stream and disappearing into the pine forest; I walked a little way along and took a couple of shots of the rocky stream before retracing my steps and crossing the bridge. Another path ran alongside the far side of the stream, this time bordered on both sides by bright yellow gorse bushes, and it looked so attractive I couldn’t resist walking a little way along that one as well, then back at the bridge again I continued my circuit of the reservoir.
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Looking upstream
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Downstream to the reservoir
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View from the bridge
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Close to the bridge was a wide grassy area with a couple of benches, an ideal place to have a picnic or just chill out in the sunshine; from there the path ran close to the water’s edge for quite a distance, and with bluebells and gorse growing along each side it was really attractive. Eventually the reservoir widened out again and after a while it became separated from the path by a stone wall; there were several small grassy and rocky areas right by the water but it seemed that this part was used by the members of a private fishing club so there was no access for the general public.
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After a while the path veered away from the water and took me through a wooded area, skirting round a small creek where another stream flowed into the reservoir, before taking me back to the waterside. Several trees along the next stretch had branches growing over the path and down over the wall at intervals, making lovely green archways to walk under – and it was only after I’d got home and put my photos on the pc that I realised I’d taken an almost identical shot to one I took last year.
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An archway of trees
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View from the dam
Eventually the path ended at the dam and a road leading up the hill to Entwistle village; with no wish to go into the village I took one final shot from the dam and headed back to the van. It had been a good walk of about three miles and very enjoyable in the sunshine, but now it was time to head home for a much-needed brew.
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My walk, clockwise from yellow spot
I’m linking up again with Jo’s Monday Walk where this time she’s exploring the Rio Arade estuary in the Algarve – do pop over and join her to see some beautiful and stunning views. And I hope you’ll agree with me when I say the very first photo definitely has the ‘wow’ factor  🙂


A sweet little surprise

While cleaning in the kitchen at work this morning I moved the large kitchen bin to mop the floor underneath and saw what I thought was a small bit of paper down in the corner. I was just about to bend down and pick it up when it moved – it wasn’t a bit of paper at all, it was a tiny baby frog not much more than in inch long and so pale that it almost blended in with its surroundings. How it managed to get there is a mystery as the kitchen is quite a distance from the works entrance and it was so small it could easily have been trodden on by someone’s big work boot. I couldn’t leave it where it was though so I caught it and took it outside.
The works building is surrounded on three sides by woodland and on the right there’s a bank sloping down to a stream, so I thought that would be an ideal place to release my little friend. Walking halfway down the bank I placed him gently on the ground near the base of a tree then waited and watched – sod work, I wanted to make sure he was safe. He stayed still for a minute then with a couple of hops he was gone, disappearing under some damp leaves a few feet from the tree. Unfortunately I didn’t get a photo of him as I didn’t have my camera with me, which was a shame as he really was the sweetest little thing – fingers crossed he stays safe, finds some friends and lives a long and happy life somewhere in the woodland.

Canal walk – Radcliffe to Bury

Another gloriously warm and sunny afternoon saw me out and about with the dogs and camera again, this time along the Radcliffe to Bury section of the Manchester, Bolton and Bury canal. My walk started from the car park of the Last Orders pub on the A665 leading into Radcliffe; a short flight of stone steps led down from the car park itself to the towpath and I’d only gone twenty yards or so when I got my first shot, followed by a second one within another twenty yards. A bit further on was an old railway bridge in faded red paint and with lettering on the side, though I couldn’t quite make out what it said until I got closer to it.
The footpath over the bridge was part of a much longer path known locally as the ‘banana path’ (opinions seem to differ as to why it’s called that) and the slogan on the side of the bridge was one of the more obscure ‘artworks’ on the Irwell Sculpture Trail. Designed by New York-based artist Lawrence Weiner, one of the central figures of late 20th century art, the slogan is one of several in various locations around the world and is supposed to represent the artist’s attempt to understand the nature of water. Now I wonder, just how many minutes did it take him to think that one up?!
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‘Water made it wet’ – a text work by Lawrence Weiner
From the bridge the towpath was bordered for much of its length by hawthorn trees which had recently come into bloom and were giving off their lovely scent. I love the smell of hawthorn and often think it’s a shame that some enterprising perfume manufacturer doesn’t develop a fragrance like that; I’m not normally a perfume wearer but if there was a hawthorn one I’d have bottles of the stuff.
Across the far side of the canal open fields were dotted with sheep and cows, while in the far distance ahead and high up on the hills were the wind turbines of Scout Moor windfarm, the second largest onshore windfarm in England. As far as countryside goes I wasn’t that far from civilisation, there was nothing remarkable about my surroundings and there weren’t a great many photo opportunities as much of my route looked the same, but in the warm sunshine and with the sound of various birds in the trees it was a really pleasant walk.
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An overgrown section
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Eventually I came to another bridge and the high bank of Elton reservoir over on my left; I’d reached the outskirts of Bury and I knew from cycling that way years ago that I would soon be approaching an industrial area and there wasn’t much canal left, so I left the towpath and followed the nearby lane over the bridge and up to the reservoir. Elton Sailing Club was nearby and there were several yachts in the process of going back to the clubhouse so I snapped a quick photo then set off on a clockwise circuit of the lake.
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Away from the reservoir bank and over on the far side the land became flatter with several places where I could leave the path and get to the water’s edge so I decided to let the dogs have a paddle. Poppie however didn’t stop at just a paddle, she was so eager to get into the water that she slipped off the sandy edge and ended up swimming in water that was deeper than she’d expected. Sophie as usual stuck to just getting her paws wet but it wasn’t long before she too had an unexpected dip.
A bit further along from there the path veered away from the water and skirted a small creek with a stream running into it. The stream was crossed by a wooden bridge and I’d just stopped to take a photo when SPLOSH – Sophie, running around like she normally does, had misjudged the end of the bridge and fallen straight into the stream. And for a little dog who absolutely hates water she swam very well and was soon scrambling back up onto the path. So I ended up with two very wet dogs but I knew that by the time we got back to the van they would both be dry again.
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The creek near where Sophie fell in the stream
As I got near to the sailing club the path became private so I had to continue my walk along the lane behind the clubhouse, then once I got back to the point where I started my circuit of the reservoir I made my way back over the canal bridge and down to the towpath to head back to the van. A few clouds had started to gather by then so the sun disappeared briefly a couple of times but by the time I got close to where I’d left the van most of them had cleared away, so I got one last shot before I climbed the steps back up to the car park.
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The last shot of the day
At least I didn’t have to put two wet dogs in the back of the van, they’d both completely dried out on our way back from the reservoir and once they’d settled down I didn’t hear a peep from either of them all the way back home. It had been an enjoyable walk along a very pleasant stretch of the canal and it was one which I’ll probably do again in the not-too-distant future.
My walk from the yellow spot
I’m linking up again with Jo’s Monday Walk where this week she’s continuing her exploration of Bath – do pop over and join her for some architecture, quirkiness and a rhubarb and cherry slice or two.


I’ve started a new blog

Following on from my previous post about the challenge I’m taking on next month, I’ve started a new blog for it. Unless I’m missing something which should be obvious there doesn’t seem to be anywhere on my fundraising page for me to post regular updates of my progress, and I don’t feel it’s right to ask people to sponsor me or make donations if they can’t see how I’m doing. Then again, if I post updates on this blog they may very well get lost among all the other things I write about so a dedicated ‘challenge’ blog seems the way to go.
My new blog can be found here and as always any comments really will be much appreciated  🙂

Walking all over cancer

After seeing a tv advert yesterday I’ve taken the plunge and signed up to raise money for Cancer Research by walking 10,000 steps every day in June, in memory of Michael’s dad who, as some of you will remember, died of cancer in early December last year. According to sources, 10,000 steps equates to five miles but then I suppose that depends on an individual’s stride length, however I’m now in the process of checking out various affordable gadgets and gizmos to find the one which will give me the most accurate measure of step count and distance.
When I think of all the walking I do when I’m at work, plus taking the dogs out every day, 10,000 steps seems like a fairly easy target but I’m not expecting it to be so simple. There may be days when, for whatever reason, I don’t take the dogs as far as on other days, although if I don’t do the required number of steps on one day I can make up the total by walking extra on another day. As much as I enjoy walking Sophie and Poppie this challenge could turn out be harder than I think – it may not be a walk in the park (although it could be if that’s where I take them!) but I’m determined to do it and raise as much money as I can beg, bully, extort and nag people into parting with for a good cause.
If anyone would like to sponsor me or make a donation then my fundraising page can be found here.  Thank you for reading.

A woodland walk

Since the end of the bank holiday weekend my local area has been blessed with plenty of warm sunny weather, and although I’ve been really busy with work I did manage to squeeze in a couple of good walks with Sophie and Poppie. The first one was a visit to Sunnyhurst Woods, just an eight-and-a-half mile drive north from home and a place I hadn’t been to for about ten years. Originally a private woodland first planted in the early 19th century and covering 85 acres, Sunnyhurst was purchased by Darwen Corporation and opened as a public park in 1903 to commemorate the earlier coronation of Edward Vll in 1902.
There are several entrances to the woods and my walk started from the one on a residential street on the east side. A wide path took me down to where the Sunnyhurst brook ran through the valley; set back on the left off the bottom of the path was a stone drinking fountain monument and on the right a small stone bridge led to the 18th century Sunnyhurst Cottage, originally the woodman’s dwelling but now used as the park office and visitor centre. Just along the path from there was the Olde England Kiosk, a Tudor style tea house built in 1911/12 and now a cafe, ice cream shop and licensed function room, and nearby was a large oak tree planted in 1913 to commemorate a visit by King George V and Queen Mary.

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Drinking fountain monument
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Olde England kiosk
Keeping the brook on my right the path took me past a fancy stone bridge with a waterfall beneath it then up a short incline on the left where the trees gave way to a more open area with a large informal paddling pool, constructed in 1905 and marked by small stone footbridges at each end. Several park benches were set alongside the path and it looked like it would be a really nice place to have a picnic or just chill out for a while. Beyond the pool was a wooden footbridge where I could go left or right; I continued left and a bit further on the path widened out into another open area with a large octagonal shelter.
Built in 1912 and supported by eight stone columns the shelter was originally presented by Charles Spencer Greenway, a local businessman, and was used for the popular Cafe Chantante entertainments around the time of the First World War. The ground around one side was remodelled with a semi-circular stone plinth which could be used for seating and band concerts and other musical performances were often held there, though the Cafe Chantante events were the most popular. Although officially titled the Greenway Shelter the structure is commonly known as ‘the bandstand’, though I very much doubt that band concerts are held there nowadays.
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The paddling pool
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The ‘band stand’
Continuing along the same path I remembered that eventually I would come to a large reservoir where I should be able to get some good photos from the dam, but I hadn’t gone much further when I found my way blocked by a series of tall barriers with notices informing me that the path was closed due to a large landslide. It looked like I would have to go back the way I came, but there was another path leading off through the trees so I decided to see if I could get to the reservoir that way. That particular path was narrow, rough and very steep; when I finally got to the top it widened out into a lane which ran past a farm and I could see that I would be heading in completely the wrong direction if I continued, so I had no choice but to go back down and retrace my route back along the main path.
When I reached the paddling pool I crossed over the brook via the little stone hump back bridge and walked down the far side of the pool, crossing back again over the two bridges at the far end; at the fancy stone bridge I crossed back to walk past the Olde England Kiosk, which was unfortunately closed, (I could have murdered a brew and some cake) then I crossed again for the final time at the bridge near Sunnyhurst Cottage.
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View from the far side of the pool
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Sunnyhurst Cottage garden
From the drinking fountain monument I had a choice of three paths; the middle one looked very pleasant so instead of going back up the one I’d come down I took that one instead. It went for quite a distance before taking me up an incline and past the back gardens of several houses, finally emerging near the bottom end of the residential street where I’d started my walk, though I didn’t class the walk itself as being over until I got back to the van.
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Can you see Sophie?
Mileage-wise I couldn’t really tell how far I’d walked – probably not that far as it had only taken me an hour and a half including the unnecessary detour up that steep minor path. I was a bit disappointed that I hadn’t managed to get to the reservoir but other than that it had been a good walk in a really nice place. The dogs had enjoyed it and I’d got some good photos, and if I really want to see the reservoir I can always find another way to get to it and go another time.
I’m linking up this week with Jo’s Monday Walk, where she’s been discovering art and architecture in the city of Bristol; if you like Banksy (or even if you just want to know why everyone raves about him) then do pop over and read through her post.

And talking of mice….

A comment on my previous post about the mice reminded me of something which happened maybe seventeen or eighteen years ago. For some reason only known to himself Michael had bought me a hamster for Mother’s Day one year. We’d had a succession of hamsters years before when he was younger and I’d even had one since he left home; there was still a redundant hamster cage stored in the cupboard under the stairs so as he knew I like mice he maybe thought I might like the old cage to have a new occupant, hence the Mother’s Day present.
The hamster was a cute little thing, a brown and white male with a faint black mark on his back, and I called him Weeble. He lived happily in his cage here in the spare bedroom and he would often be running in his wheel while I was working on the pc in the evenings. Then one evening, when he’d been here for just about twelve months, I suddenly realised that he was being exceptionally quiet – maybe he was asleep in his little house, or worse still maybe he’d died. When I took the top off the house to check though I found he wasn’t in there, in fact he wasn’t in the cage at all – somehow he’d escaped, but as the door was still tightly fastened I couldn’t see how he’d got out. All was revealed however when I looked at the back of the cage more closely – two of the bars were bent as if they’d been forced apart by the Incredible Hulk, and the resulting gap was big enough for a determined hamster to get through. Heaven only knows how he’d managed to do that but he had, and I now had a hamster on the loose somewhere in the room.
I dreaded the thought of having to move everything to find him so I set a trap – some food in the bottom of a bucket and a ramp with a trail of food on it from the floor to the top. In theory Weeble should follow the trail up the ramp and fall into the bucket, from where he could be returned to his cage with the now-straightened bars, but in practise it didn’t work and he remained at large. Then one evening while watching tv in the living room with my partner I heard a pitter-patter sound above my head, a sound which seemed to move from one side of the room to the other – and we realised that the little devil had somehow got under the bedroom floor and was running up and down between two of the joists in the space between there and the downstairs ceiling. The question was, which two joists was he between? So Plan B came into force – with the landing carpet taken up my partner stayed upstairs and I armed myself with a broom handle and returned to the living room, then once I’d figured out exactly where above my head Weeble was I knocked on the ceiling, enabling my partner to determine which floorboards to take up.
As hamsters are nocturnal and sleep during the day I put Weeble’s house down between the joists and put some food round it – hopefully when daylight came he would go to sleep in there and he could safely be removed back to his cage. Unfortunately Plan B didn’t work and though I checked his house frequently over a couple of days he stayed on the loose – it was if he was determined he wasn’t going to be caught no matter what I did. Now while I could live with a couple of floorboards missing from the landing (after a while we got used to stepping over the gap) there was one major problem – we were going camping for five days at Easter and meeting up with friends, it had been arranged for ages and we didn’t want to cancel but I didn’t like the thought of going away and leaving Weeble where he was. Reluctantly however, that’s what I did, having put plenty of food down for him first – he had two chances so I just hoped that he would survive.
As soon as we got back from our Easter break I checked for any sign of Weeble; some of the food had gone but his house hadn’t been disturbed and even after another couple of days there was no patter of hamster feet above my head while I was in the living room so reluctantly I came to the sad conclusion that he had finally died. Although the thought of a hamster corpse somewhere under the upstairs floor didn’t exactly fill me with joy there was no way we could take up the whole floor to find it so the two floorboards that had been pulled up were put back, the carpet was relaid and life returned to normal. Then several nights later, while lying in bed, I heard some rustling noises coming from the narrow space between the side of the wardrobe and the wall; at first I thought I was hearing things but eventually I got up to investigate – and sitting among the rolls of Christmas wrapping paper which I kept there was Weeble.
He was too far back in the narrow space for me to just reach in and get him so I came up with the idea of using the small fishing net which I kept for the fish tank, but as I moved it closer to him he backed even further away until he was completely out of reach. Moving the wardrobe was out of the question so I went back to bed happy that Weeble was still alive and determined that come hell or high water he would be caught the next day. By the following morning he had transferred himself from the side of the wardrobe to the small space behind the chest of drawers and that proved to be his undoing. Armed with the small bedside waste bin my partner crouched at one end of the cabinet while I gingerly moved it a couple of inches away from the wall, then with the broom handle I gently poked and pushed Weeble along towards my partner and finally success – he scuttled into the bin and after almost a month on the loose he was well and truly caught.
Weeble lived for another eighteen months after his great escape and when he finally died of old age his cage was donated to a local animal charity. I haven’t had another hamster since then and to be honest I wouldn’t want one, but if I ever did get another one it would have to have an escape-proof cage – I certainly wouldn’t want to go through all that again!

The mouse that wasn’t

A couple of years ago, while sitting here at my pc one evening, I heard a faint rustling sound from deep in the corner behind the computer unit. It was so faint that I wasn’t really sure if it was real or if I’d imagined it, but even though the dogs were downstairs I had the vague feeling that I wasn’t alone in the room. However, I didn’t hear the noise again so I put it out of my mind, but a few evenings later as I entered the room there was a distinct scuffling sound and the very real impression that something had darted across the floor and disappeared into the corner; it seemed that somehow I may have gained an uninvited house guest – a mouse.
Just before going to bed that night I left half a dozen small squares of bread and marmalade on a plate on the floor. I didn’t know if mice like bread and marmalade but I figured that if there was a mouse in residence it might be attracted by a late night snack, and if the bread disappeared at least it would prove that I was neither imagining things nor losing my marbles – and sure enough, when I checked the following morning all but one of the pieces had gone.
Now as much as I like mice, and having one in residence didn’t particularly bother me, it wasn’t an ideal situation – where there’s one there could be twenty one so the mouse had to go, and the sooner the better. But I also had to find out where it had got in, and as it seemed to be frequenting the corner behind the computer unit that was the obvious place to start; not an easy task though in view of everything which had to be moved, and one which would be better waiting until the weekend when I had plenty of time.
So the Sunday morning saw me moving all the books and various boxes of computer accessories, paper, envelopes, laminating sheets, files and plastic pockets from the shelves in the unit, disconnecting and moving two computers, two printers, two monitors and a scanner, and finally moving the unit well away from the wall. It took quite a while but eventually I could see where my little visitor was coming and going; right in the corner the carpet had been nibbled at the edges and when I peeled it back I found a gap between the floorboards and skirting board – not a particularly big gap, but certainly enough for a mouse to get through from the cavity wall space.
After a walk down to the local DIY store I returned with a can of expanding foam which I sprayed liberally into the gap to fill it and seal it, then once the foam had hardened I cut off the excess and put back the pc unit and all its contents. I wasn’t sure if the mouse might have actually been hiding somewhere else in the room though; if it was I would need to get a humane trap, but before going to the expense of buying one if I didn’t need to I decided to leave some more bread and marmalade down just to be sure. I did that twice and on neither occasion was it touched, so the mouse must have evicted itself before I sealed up the hole. Since then there have been no more strange noises or any other evidence of rodent activity so my efforts on that Sunday two years ago, although time-consuming, were obviously a success and my uninvited guest must have gone to live elsewhere.
This evening however I’d not been home from work long when Michael said he thought we had another mouse in residence as he’d heard a scratching noise coming from behind his wardrobe. So I went in his room and we sat quietly and listened; all was quiet for several minutes then we heard it – a scratching noise which was definitely coming from behind the wardrobe. It went on for a couple of minutes during which it got a bit louder, so we came to the conclusion that it must have been a rat rather than a mouse; that was something we definitely didn’t want but I dreaded the thought of us having to move all the furniture to find where it was getting in. Then something made me listen more closely and I realised what it could be – it sounded like someone was using a scraper on the wall in the adjoining room of the house next door.
Just to confirm that theory I went next door and asked, and sure enough it was just as I thought – they were in the process of decorating their bedroom and were scraping the paper from the wall which was back-to-back with Michael’s room. Thank goodness that’s all it was – we can live with the temporary noise of the next-door neighbours decorating but a rat or another mouse in the house? No way!