A whole world exists, from burrowing animals to rats in sewers, to caves and burial chambers. Take a tour of The Street Beneath My Feet to learn of tunnels & pipes, burrows and rock. Also read Underland: A Deep Time Journey.
- Caves are natural voids that are large enough for humans to enter. Caused by eroded rock, some are in the Yorkshire Dales (limestone) and Cumbria’s Ease Gill (over 40 miles long). In Hastings, St Clements Caves tell the story of smuggling.
- Burial chambers (catacombs) are passageways used by religious people, one in Paris has 6 million people buried in a tunnel network. It’s believed there are over 1000 bodies beneath Aldgate East tube station: victims of the Bubonic Plague which killed 100,000 people. Other burial chambers have been found on Dartmoor and Southend (between a pub & an ALDI supermarket, suspected from the 6th century).
- Animal homes. From rabbits to water voles, many animals live underground. Badgers have suffered culls due to bad science – see how to stop TB in badgers & cattle. Foxes are a good part of nature (rats and rabbits are the fox’s natural diet, so could take care of things, if we had not built over his natural home in recent decades). No-dig gardening helps earthworms.
- Food. With less natural space available, London’s Growing Underground grows sustainable food 33 feet underground at Clapham, using LED technology hydro-phonic gardening systems, unaffected by weather. From crop to fork in 4 hours.
- Ants usually disappear, when weather cools. They like protein if they have eggs, but mostly sweet (do don’t leave cola, sandwiches, cake crumbs nearby). Anthills aerate the soil and provide food for birds (by protecting caterpillars, due to sticky honeydew they secrete). Spraying even natural solutions will kill them. Some say mint deters, others say not. Keep herbs away from pets, mint can upset cats in particular – see more pet-toxic herbs to avoid).
A Beginner’s Guide to Sewers!
When millions of people flush condoms, tampons, wet wipes, cotton buds and more down the toilet, it all washes into the sewers and sometimes reaches the sea, where marine life consume it. Just like shoving old people into nursing homes and pretending that sickness and death does not exist – we need to look at sewers, and why they are in such a state.
Recently in London, the affectionately named ‘Fatty McFatberg‘ became the largest ever pile of goo mess the sewers had ever had to cope with. It took colossal effort to break it down, it could have flooded the city. When broken up, it was found to be made up of all the things you should not flush down the loo.
Sewers were only invented after an outbreak of cholera in London (Parliament was so smelly, it often had to close). Before that, all sewage would be dropped into the River Thames. But most sewers were designed for a much smaller population and can’t cope with people flushing away thick toilet paper, tampons and sanitary towels, condoms and goodness knows what else.
- Don’t flush anything but toilet paper (thick luxury ones can clog drains). Use a bath guard or shower guard to stop hair clogs, and use natural biodegradable cleaning products.
- Hedgehogs and other creatures can fall down open drains, so use proper covers. Tiggywinkles says the only way to rescue hogs is to use two pairs of pliers to gently pull them out (take to your local wildlife rescue, to check for burns/injuries).
How to Humanely Prevent Rats!
Whether you cook in a home kitchen or run a vegan cafe, restaurant or hotel, you may encounter rats! The saying that ”you’re never more than 6ft away from a rat in London’ is not true – more like 164ft.
- The best way to prevent rats moving in is to keep all food and rubbish sealed. Weir Bags offer quality recycling sacks which are more rodent-proof than black sacks. These are reusable – emptied into trucks, then left outside your door to fill up again.
- Don’t put cooked/leftover animal foods in compost bins, it attracts rodents. Some people say to wash eggshells beforehand in biodegradable washing up liquid, to remove the smell. Rodents are shy, so compost bins near footfall helps. Plant-based fertilisers are less likely to attract rodents.
- Keep gardens free of leftover food (see how to help our garden birds on why leaving out lots of stale bread and fat for birds is not good). Find tips on what to feed (mostly natural food) and how to gradually reduce excessive food, without harm.
- MouseMesh is a metal grille to deter mice (there’s a thicker version for rats). Keep it clean from leaves and don’t cover gas vents. Repair damage that could provide entryways (roofs, broken pipes etc). Keep cat flaps closed and toilet seats down!
I once interviewed a photographer who spent every night for a week, watching mice on the London Underground network. He told me ‘At the end of the night, it’s like the mice know when it’s the last train. You wouldn’t believe it – literally tens or even hundreds of mice run down to the platform!’ Florence Wilkinson