Four Shires Guild of Bell Ringers

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Is Squirrel Nutkin alive and well, and living in your tower?

Of course not, you will reply. Unfortunately, you may be wrong. Read on.

Evesham Bell Tower is well-protected against bird infestation. No bird gets it, which is as it should be. New stainless-steel mesh was applied about 20 years ago and it's all in excellent condition. However, these defences were tested by squirrels recently and were found to be insecure. There have been reports of squirrels running up and down the outside of the Tower for some time, but no signs of entry until one Saturday morning when I went in to raise some bells for a wedding. There were bits and pieces over the ringing room floor. These had fallen through the rope holes. I went up to the clock room to see what had occurred, fervently hoping the ropes were OK. They were, and the clock room didn't seem unusually disturbed. Up to the belfry to check out the ropes there. Again, ropes OK and nothing unusual. You know the feeling: something's wrong, but you're uneasy because you can't find the cause. We rang for the wedding and afterwards one of the ringers and I took another look. In the belfry I noticed a movement of something that looked like a bushy tail. Further investigation revealed a large eye looking out of a crevice. It was a squirrel. There was a sudden vision of £2500-worth of bellropes being chewed and made useless! Action to remove the squirrel was required: and fast! I emailed the Vicar, who told me to Get on with getting a pest control man in as quickly as possible. The first thought was to get the ropes off, as, being a Saturday, getting someone in wasn't going to happen until Monday. However, some of the bells were up ready for Sunday ringing, so removal had to be left until the following morning. I hoped the rodent wouldn't fancy a bit of polyester overnight. However, luck was with me. The Vale Magazine, a local freebie mag, was to hand and I looked up pest control. Hinton Pest Control's advert looked me in the face. Hmm, that's nicely local: give them a ring. A lady answered, listened to my story and then said, Would you like us to come now? Oh, most certainly! She said her husband, Stephen, was out on another job, but would call me when he'd finished. Stephen did and I met him at the Tower at 7.15pm on Saturday night. What service! He set two traps, one in the belfry and one in the clock room. I said I'd check them next morning. Stephen told me squirrels are able to get through holes as small as 15mm (that's about ⅝")! Being crawly, flexible creatures that are able to grip on any surface except glass and ceramics, there's hardly a chance normal little crevices will stop them entering. Birds can't get where squirrels can.

I came to the Tower next morning hoping the traps had done the bizz. They had. I could hear rattling upstairs when I reached the Ringing Room door. There was nothing in the clock room trap, but the belfry trap had not one, but two, grey squirrels in it. They weren't happy. They were only small, so were probably young. Unfortunately, they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. I was told by Stephen's wife not to attempt to touch one, because they're nasty things and fight like almost nothing else of their size. Stephen confirmed they're not nice at all when they're cornered. Yes, he said, they're just rats that live in trees; cuter looking, but nonetheless rats: don't touch. We left a trap in the Tower on Sunday night and checked Monday evening. Another squirrel had been caught! Traps will be left in the tower and checked. We shall be blocking up any small holes that could allow a squirrel through.

In case you think squirrels can't reach the louvres or whatever in your tower and therefore their ingress is unlikely, let me tell you these things seem to have big suckers on their feet to defy all forms of gravity. I've seen a squirrel calmly running down the full height of one of the Bell Tower's buttresses; and a person told me he'd seen a squirrel on the clock hands, but it had slipped and fallen to the tarmac below. It was a bit dazed and a bit bloodied, but it got up and ran off. They can get anywhere. If they get in, severe damage is very likely to occur to bellropes, woodwork and electrical wiring. The cost of getting someone in to remove these creatures will be very cheap compared to the bill for their damage. I can recommend Stephen of Hinton Pest Control (01386-41762): a really nice accommodating chap. Oh, and I learnt later, his daughter is learning to ring at Hinton-on-the-Green.

Chris Povey