Custom Search

Friday, March 25, 2011

Village divided in row over bird-lover who feeds flock of 250 swans

By Daily Mail Reporter

Row: Alex Smith feeds 250 wild swans every day - but the locals are kicking up a stink

A women who has fed Britain's largest herd of swans every day for the past 20 years has caused locals to kick up a stink.

Alex Smith daily visits the River Stour in the picturesque village of Mistley, Essex, with bags of grain to feed the wild swans - but locals are disgusted at their mess.

And Mrs Smith claims she has become a hate figure in the village for feeding the swans, whose dropping - they argue - are ruining the idyllic river scene.

The row has divided the pretty village and Mrs Smith claims she suffers daily abuse and taunts - but has vowed to carry on feeding the swans claiming they are reliant on her visits and would simply starve to death if she stopped.

She said: 'There have been swans here for hundreds of years but there used to be many thousands.

'And whilst the swans are not endangered yet, they will could soon be as they are large birds and need a lot of feed.'

Villagers claim the large number of birds are damaging the riverside greensward with their mess and are a danger because they wander into the nearby road.

The iconic birds feature on the village sign and in the local rugby clubs crest and attract a tourists to the area.

But not all villagers are so please to see large flocks of birds on the riverside.
Mistley resident Angela Kilmartin said: 'Feeling in the village is running very high against the despoliation of a known beauty spot.

'This is not a designated swan centre, it is a public highway, footpath, beach and greensward, and people passing by in cars and on foot need to take great care to avoid damage to themselves or any of the swans, because numbers are now so great and the swans are dirty and not easily seen.'

Bird lover: Mrs Smith claims she is verbally abused while feeding near Mistley, Essex

Row: The argument in Witham, Essex, has flared up - even though swans are part of the village

She called for people who 'overfeed' the swans to be slapped with Asbos.

Richard Ling, clerk to Mistley Parish Council, said the greensward was 'virtually impossible to walk on' because of the swan mess.

He said: 'I hope it doesn't come down to an Asbo but it is one of the options we will have to consider.'

Mrs Smith, who set up her own charity called Swan Watch, was taken to court for civil proceedings in 2008 but was cleared by a judge of overfeeding.

Despite her court victory the bird lover said she still faces daily abuse and snide comments from villagers but has vowed to continue feeding the regal flock.

She said: 'People say quite abusive things - I was out shopping the other day and someone said something quite derogatory that I could not repeat. But it is ignorance really.

'If I reacted to everything that is said, I would not have the energy to carry on - yes sometimes the going is a bit tough - and then there are the nasty comments.

'It is just ridiculous at times - when they were talking about the ASBO - but I just carry on and do it for the swans.

'If you stick your head above the parapet for anything you are shot down but I know that I have a lot of support out there as well.

'You have to accept that it is not going to please everybody but there is an undercurrent that does not go away.

'What really drives me is that the swans could be endangered one day or even extinct but I would like them to be here for the people to enjoy for the generations to come.

'They are hugely good for Mistley's economy at a time when we are losing a lot of small shops - the swans are a tourist attraction and people come here to see them.'

Last year the village was rocked when eight swans had their necks broken and a cygnet was decapitated in a horror attack.

The culprits were never caught and even those opposed to the swan numbers in the village were outraged by the cruel act.



Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More

Powered by Blogger