An exhausted trapped swan has been rescued by a group of volunteers in Thamesmead who dug a trench with their bare hands to free him.

The swan had crash landed into a fenced-off area of bushland yesterday (May 3) after “likely being attacked by another territorial pair” according to The Greenwich Wildlife Network volunteer, Rae Gellel.

She said that the swan, who has been nicknamed Linton, 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," she added.

An RSPCA officer brought a ladder to try to climb the fence, but it had anti-climb spikes and there were lots of thorny bushes below making it inaccessible.

The team, unable to locate a shovel, began using their bare hands to dig a trench to free the swan.

Rae explained: “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.”

News Shopper: Rae's hand after diggingRae's hand after digging (Image: Rae Gellel)

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The swan rested for an hour or so to recover from his ordeal and to have a drink before a duo named Debbie and Peter took him straight to the Swan Sanctuary in Shepperton, south west London.

Rae said the same swan was reportedly assisted previously by the fire brigade, who sawed through a fence to release him. 

She added: “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.”

A spokesperson for London Fire Brigade said: "Firefighters love animals and we are ready, willing and able to assist distressed or injured animals

"The last thing we want is for people to put themselves at risk rescuing an animal themselves – but we do encourage people to call the RSPCA in the first instance and we will assist if our specialist equipment is required."

"Firefighters were called to a report of a swan trapped by a fence in Thamesmead on April 26.

"Crews attended and located the swan

"After assessing the situation, firefighters determined that the swan was not physically trapped and it was not injured. 

"Firefighters cut away at a fence to create a gap for the swan before checking on its welfare.

"The swan did not require rescuing and then left its location and headed towards a lake. 

"The Brigade was called at 4.46pm and the incident was over for firefighters by 5.09pm.

"A fire engine from East Greenwich Fire Station attended the scene."

Greenwich Wildlife Network is a small, volunteer-run registered charity which aims to give injured, orphaned, and unwell wild animals in the Greenwich or Bexley area a chance at treatment, rehabilitation, and eventual return to the wild.

The charity is desperately seeking a premises on which to establish a centre, where a small number of animals can be cared for until the point of release, as volunteers are currently looking after the animals in their homes.