Abandoned island with crabs the size of plates and where Brits are banned

Of the many islands that lie up and down the River Thames, Chiswick Eyot promises to be one of the most fascinating, with the island being home to giant crabs the size of plates and Brits being barred from visiting it.

Overlooking the Chiswick Mall, the island is about 3,200 acres in size and is completely uninhabited by humans.

The island marks the halfway point in the Oxford-Cambridge boat race on the Thames and a green pole standing beside the island is used to keep track of rowers' timings.

The island is being cultivated as a natural reserve. This means that people are banned from entering the island unless they sign up for a special tour where they can see the island whose population mainly includes swans and beautiful willow trees.

Yet as always, people love to break rules, and in 2010 a man called Nick told the BBC he had been living a Robinson Crusoe-style life here, camping out on the island.

Still, Hounslow Council apparently took a look and claimed there were no signs of habitation there.

According to the Hidden London website, flint tools and Neolithic and Roman pottery have been discovered on Chiswick Eyot which may mean there was once a small settlement here.

During the industrial revolution, the island was used for growing grass and osiers – reeds used for making baskets – which were used in the markets at Chiswick.

The naturalist C. J. Cornish wrote in 1902 that the riverbank of Chiswick Mall beside the island had once been a "famous fishery".

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He claimed the last ever salmon in the Thames had been caught here in 1812.

But there are two things you really need to know about this lovely little island.

One is that it is shrinking – and two – it is being invaded by crabs that can grow as large as dinner plates!

Yes it's true, the part of the island that used to lie within the borough of Hammersmith has since slipped into the Thames.

According to the Chiswick Calendar website, the Old Chiswick Protection Society puts out calls each year for volunteers to help shore up the island using bundles of cut willow branches.

The Chinese Mitten Crab appears to have first come to the area in the 1930s after clinging to the hulls of international ships.

The crabs burrow into the muddy banks and create complex interconnected burrows.

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The society says the consequences for Chiswick Eyot are potentially disastrous, as the crabs’ burrowing loosens the mud around the island and when the tide flows in and out, the earth is washed away, steadily eroding the island over time.

The Natural History Museum is even asking members of the public to report sightings of the Chinese Mitten Crab, a species that is listed as one of the world’s worse invasive species.

Other than damaging river banks, they cause numerous other problems to areas that they occupy such as damaging fishing gear, blocking intake streams from rivers and reservoirs, modifying natural habitats and competing with native species.

The crabs can grow to the size of a dinner plate. They have distinctive claws that make them appear furry and they have a squarish body with four spines.

There's a last chance to help out in defending the island from the crabs this year on Saturday, November 27 from 11 am to 2 pm and Sunday, November 28 from 12-3 PM.

You need to wear wellies and strong gardening gloves.

Details can be found here.

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