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  • Writer's pictureRae Gellel

Volunteers Dig Out Trapped Swan with Their Bare Hands

An absolutely exhausting rescue today in Thamesmead, when for the second day running, a swan crash landed into a fenced off area which was dense with brambles and thorny bushes, most likely after being attacked by another territorial pair on a nearby lake. The swan was absolutely exhausted, too weak to stand and unable to move forward at all due to the thick foliage. The fence and surrounding bushes were splattered with his blood.

I’m too exhausted to explain in full, but ultimately we ended up digging out a trench with our hands while my mum, with help from Debbie, worked through the fence to clear a path for the swan by bending back the thorny bushes and brambles. Meanwhile, Fran was on the phone calling around trying to source a shovel ASAP (which would have made things much easier but the swan was so weak we didn’t want to delay). A very helpful RSPCA officer was also present and went to fetch a ladder from her van so we could attempt to climb the fence, though we weren’t certain it would be possible due to the thick bushes and anti-climb spikes.

Once we’d cleared the path and dug what seemed like a large enough trench, I reached through the fence and pulled the swan into it to hopefully ease him under the fence. It became clear that the trench wasn’t big enough, so we all began to dig around him, in order to make adequate space to pull him out. The RSPCA officer also returned in the nick of time to help with this digging, so there were four of us at it.


Finally, with lots of digging and easing, we managed to pull him free. In the process, I broke my beloved and trusty rescue boots and every nail I have, and we got absolutely scratched to bits by brambles, but it was worth it.

‘Linton’ as he has been named, was given an hour or so to recover from his ordeal and have a long drink, before the amazing Debbie and Peter took him straight to the Swan Sanctuary. We’d be lost with out them.


The same swan was rescued yesterday by the Fire Brigade who sawed through the fence to free him, but it seems that he was then herded back onto the same lake with the territorial pair of swans that chased him off, causing the situation to repeat itself today.

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