This week The Ranger made a hurried visit to one of the more obscure outposts of his mighty empire to look at a slipway. During repairs to what seemed to be a few broken planks, contractors had found an unexpected problem:
The whole thing had been nibbled away from the inside. What appeared to be sound wood turned out to have the texture and strength of cheese. Once the planks were off worse was to follow:
Oh dear – seems to be like a bigger job than The Ranger bargained for. Much scratching of heads and tugging at beards ensued. Finally a plan was hatched. All the rotten timber was removed, new bearers fitted, and plastic wood planks ordered to go on the top. Looks like the rangers at the council will be having to economise for a bit while they pay for all that! But what caused this unexpected damage? The canny contractor who had the job of ripping the stuff up was quick to explain, with one word: gribbles! Gribbles are marine isopods (related to woodlice) which have the ability to eat timber – and certainly enjoyed this slipway. They favour the softer wood, not surprisingly, and so they had a good go at the larch planks, slightly less on the hardwood bearers, and luckily couldn’t make an impression on the old greenheart piles which won’t need replacing this time. A characteristic of gribble attack is that the crustaceans don’t care for the sunlight and dry timber that is found on the exposed surfaces, so the wood they prefer to eat is hidden away. Hence the nasty surprise when the broken boards were lifted.
They may be cute-looking little things but they’ve caused The Ranger a lot of trouble this week!