POLL: Stalham duck feeding drama

A pensioner has been scared off feeding ducks at her local pond after being accused of attracting rats to the area.

Daphne Jones, known locally as 'the duck lady,' has stopped throwing bread at Stalham Green pond after being given a stern ticking off from a nearby householder.

She says it a harmless pleasure done by many people, and her family is furious at the upset it has caused her.

But district council health officials have confirmed that duck feeding does attract vermin.

And Stalham Town Council, which is now investigating claims that the area is alive with rats following a concerned letter from a resident, may consider putting up a 'Please don't feed the ducks' sign.

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Meanwhile duck-lover Mrs Jones, 76, who buys two daily loaves from Tesco, plus duck food from a pet shop, continues to visit another local pond, at Sutton Staithe, where she takes pleasure in feeding the water birds every day.

'It's my chief interest since we moved here two years ago. I love to see them coming for it,' she said. 'I didn't think I was doing any harm because they eat it all up.'

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Mrs Jones moved from Essex to Millside, Stalham, where she lives with her daughter and son-in-law, Robin Guarnieri.

He said Mrs Jones had been shocked when she was challenged by the householder and was now so frightened that she avoided the pond and walked past the site on the other side of the road.

'The resident said to her: 'You mustn't feed the ducks. It's attracting rats,' But it's just one person's view. Everything was going absolutely excellently until this chap took the law into his own hands,' said Mr Guarnieri.

'There are countless other people doing the same and she always stays there until the bread's gone. You have always got rats in the country. Are they going to stop this pleasure for everyone in the village?' Mr Guarnieri added.

He believes the rats could be attracted by fallen apples lying in a nearby driveway.

Born in Harrow, Mrs Jones said there had been a pond five minutes walk from her home and she had enjoyed feeding ducks since she was a child.

'I thought it was something everybody loved doing. In the school holidays there are grandmothers and mothers with little children. It's how you teach your children about things like wildlife; by talking to them while you're feeding the ducks - describing the birds and the sky,' she said.

Former Stalham Town Councillor Duncan Edmonds told a meeting of the council that his wife had seen a 'huge' rat near the Stalham Green pond very recently.

Mark Whitmore, environmental protection team leader with North Norfolk District Council, told the News that bird feeding 'undoubtedly' attracted rats and a pond provided the extra benefit of a water source, making it an ideal location and the best advice was not to feed the birds.

If people wanted to feed the ducks, they should only put down enough to be eaten on the spot, as leaving food around would attract vermin.

He added: 'If there is any treatment being undertaken to reduce a pest infestation then the advice is not to feed the birds at all.'

* Harmless pass-time or a banquet for vermin? What do you think? Email nnn.letters@archant.co.uk or write to The Editor, North Norfolk News, 31 Church Street, Cromer NR27 9ES.

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