Hi sorry I am finally back home (had trouble with rats so only just returned to my own house tonight) so I can give you the full story.
My sister booked her flight last weekend to arrive on Tuesday. I was packing my bags on Monday afternoon in preparation for the trip to Ashford when I got a call from Dobbies the Garden centre to say they thought they had just seen him go past a window whilst in a staff meeting. I was so excited but I didn't want to believe it was him just in case... the lady at Dobbies told me to come and see Oliver the Manager when we arrived on tuesday. I picked my sister up from Gatwick on tuesday and got to Ashford in the afternoon. We dropped off our things at the hotel and went to Dobbies. The manager was a really nice chap who took us round to the side of the store to show us where they saw him and then told us he believe he saw him again that morning! he was 90% sure it was him, my sister was in tears but we still didn't want to get carried away.
We formulated a plan and I went to a local RSPCA fileld officer to pick up a trap. We set the trap on the 'route' where he was seen and waited and waited and waited. We spotted the local black cat and made sure he didn't go in the trap but by 10.30pm there was still too much traffic and it was getting so cold with a 7 months old human baby in tow, we thought it would be better to go to bed and start again before sunrise when it is so quiet he would hear her better.
My sister went out just before 6am and at 6.35am came back in tears with Grapelli in her arms!! She saws his paws under a fence and called him again and laid flat on the ground not to spook him, and he came to see her so she grabbed him but he was so happy to see her he wasn;t going to go anywhere.
He is now back with his children in France after an overnight stay in Paris, a train and a ferry! He is very thin but overall in good condition, we took him to be checked by a vet before transporting him back to France. It is amazing how quickly he reverted back to his lazy nature and laid back self!! Purring and sleeping on the hotel bed. He has definately been scanvenging as he was looking in everybag we had for food and tearing plastic carrier bags to get to a lemon cake!!
The only person's name I have at Dobbies is Oliver, the Manager. I think it was a few of the staff who spotted Grapelli in the meeting but really Oliver was great and talked to us for ages and said they would put chicken out that night to keep him in the area and asked if he could do anything to help us so we are very grateful to him. We did go back to see him and hugged him....twice!
To answer the question about distance, Grapelli did stay very close to where he escaped as the Garden centre was no more than 200 yards from the Travelodge where he escaped. I think we were lucky ( and so was Grapelli) that he escaped in a place surrounded by fast food outlets and kitchens!!
It is now going to take me 2 weeks to inform everyone I emailed and update all the websites!! But the hard work and determination was worth it!
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR HELP, A SPECIAL THANKS TO JEN FOR ALL SHE HAS DONE FOR US!!! I hope one day I can repay the favour and help a fellow animal lover.
So that's it the search is over, it is now going to take me 2 weeks to get in touch with everyone I emailed and all the websites I registered him with and all the businesses I put posters in !!!!