Published: 12:00, 04 September 2014
A plague of rats is infesting a busy footpath used by hundreds of children walking to school in Canterbury.
Pupils using the path between Stuppington Lane, off the South Canterbury Road, and Langton Lane have seen dozens of rats emerging from undergrowth to scavenge for food.
The pathway – which is popular with dog walkers – is also peppered with rat droppings.
With the new academic year starting this week there are fears pupils of the boys' Langton school who use the path could be exposed to any bacteria or disease the rats may have.
Speaking during lunchtime, three of the grammar school's pupils said they had just seen rats scurrying around in front of them.
Alex Jespersen, 17, said: "They are disgusting, really gross. Although I'm not particularly frightened of them."
Her friend Liseli Briscoe, 17, said: "There are loads of them. You can see them all the time when you come along here. It's pretty gross."
Fellow pupil Rhiannon Drakeley, 17, said: "They just run across in front of you. They really don't care. It's horrible."
Dog walkers using the path started noticing the rats early in the school holidays.
They believe they might have been attracted by a food source somewhere nearby or might have arrived following the development of a huge overflow car park for the Kent and Canterbury Hospital, which is being built on land just south of the path.
"I've never seen rats like it anywhere, except perhaps in some Third World places at night..." - walker Gerda Buckingham
Ploughed farm fields could also have forced rats to the pathway after their homes were disturbed.
Walker Gerda Buckingham is among those to have been shocked by the number of rats she has seen.
"During a walk, I can guarantee to see a minimum of six rats, often many, many more," she said.
"The rats are scavenging in the fields and hedges, but there's no different food sources than there have been for the past 20 years. They must have been displaced from somewhere else to suddenly appear in these huge numbers.
"I must say I wouldn't walk a dog down there now – rat droppings must be around. If they do start putting poison down, there will be thousands of dead rats too.
"I've never seen rats like it anywhere, except perhaps in some Third World places at night."
Ken Moffat, deputy head of the boys' Langton, said he was unaware of any issue with rats, but said the school would keep an eye on the situation.
Canterbury City Council has received numerous reports of rats along the path and will send a pest control officer out to assess the situation.
Spokesman Rob Davies said: "Our pest control officer has visited the site and has advised that it is possible to bait the area safely. This will be done using lockable, numbered bait boxes fixed to the fencing.
"It is likely that this work will start this Friday or Saturday. Information notices will go up at both entrances to the footpath and at points along it too. The advice is to keep dogs on leads and for children to take extra care.
"Given the numbers seen, it’s likely to take a couple of weeks to resolve. People may also come across dead rats during this period. We’ll be inspecting regularly and clearing away any we find."
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