The Bishop's Swans
The Bishop's Palace is famous all over the world for its swans who ring a bell alongside the gatehouse when they want food.
The swans are trained to pull on a rope which sounds the bell ringing and sends the Palace Caretakers, Paul and Carol Arblastar running to fetch some bread and open the window to feed them. Perhaps you will be lucky enough to see them do this when you visit!
Swans at the Palace were first taught to ring a bell for food by the daughter of Bishop Hervey in the 1870s and the tradition continues to this day. Bread is tied in clumps to the rope attracting the swans to nibble at it and pull it off, when they do this the bell rings. Gradually less and less bread is tied onto the rope as they begin to understand that by pulling the rope and hearing the bell means food will soon follow.
Rest assured, the swans and ducks all get a lot of attention from tourists and staff around The Bishop's Palace should Paul and Carol be away from the bell so they don't go hungry, they also feed off the moat silt bed and surrounding environment.
In 2012 the palace was taken over by 60 giant swans as we partnered with Swans of Wells!
Go on! Get! It’s time you lot left home!
Cygnets being forced off the moat to fend for themselves
Wynn and Brynn, the world famous mute swans at the moated Bishop’s Palace in Wells are reclaiming their waters.
On a daily basis both pen Wynn and cob Brynn are seen giving a bit of stick to their five month old cygnets as they actively encourage them to learn how to fly and leave home.
“We noticed one cygnet, nicknamed Billy as he was always left on his own and was picked on first, has had a particularly hard time of late. We think he may have been another cob that threatened Brynn’s presence” says Sarah Moore, Visitor Services Manager.
More often than not it was Brynn who adopted a very threatening low posture in the water with wings aggressively arched up and chased Billy at high speed around and around the moat. When Billy tired he received a nasty peck and prod and off he went again. We think Billy has now flown the nest as he was last seen skidding and splashing around the moat corner attempting to fly. He has not been seen for two days”.
“We have had lots of worried residents and visitors coming into the palace to tell us what is happening” says Paul Arblaster, Property Caretaker with wife Carol, who both feed the swans when they pull a rope to ring a bell on the side of the Gatehouse when they want some food; A tradition that was started by one of Bishop Hervey’s daughters in the 1870’s.
“Sadly, it is very normal for wild swans to behave in this way, forcing cygnets to leave the nest around six months old and it can be very distressing to watch. It’s a mixture of the parents marking their territory but also ensures in-breeding doesn’t happen, so it makes perfect sense in the natural world. Also, some of the cygnets are getting as big, if not a bit bigger than Wynn and Brynn, so naturally they are thinking they ought to move them on before they challenge them for their palatial residency” adds Paul.
Cygnets will often make roots with the first flock of swans they come across until they mature around 4 years old when they themselves then start to mate. And so the cycle continues.
Time will tell how long mum and dad’s patience lasts with the remaining six cygnets on the moat in Wells, who often look bemused as they motor away as fast as they can in zig-zags whilst looking back at their siblings for some help.
You can’t blame them for not wanting to leave home – who wouldn’t want to up-sticks from a breath-taking moat that surrounds a medieval bishop’s palace in England’s smallest city?
Suddenly leaving home as a teenager doesn’t seem so traumatic!
The moat's waters are rippling again...
We're noticing our family of swans are growing fast and in doing so are losing their patience a bit with each other - a very natural thing to happen in the animal (and human!) world.
In fact once all seven cygnets are able to look after themselves mum and dad are often seen chasing them away, sometimes quite aggressively, cutting the parental ties with them. Heart-breaking, but the way of the natural world.
So as sad as it is to think we probably have until November (cygnets tend to stay with their parents for about 6 months) we can all be rest assured the Super Seven will go on to join the first flock of swans they encounter where they usually stay until they mature around 4 years old. They can occasionally still be seen floating past on the Swan Cam that is still live (above).
Welcome to a set of very cute and fluffy cygnets!
In May we were delighted to announce that Wynn and Brynn had produced a set of cygnets after arriving here at the Palace from their former home in South Wales. All seven are continuing to do well and are now quite big, some bigger than mum and dad.
They can be seen floating around the moat, pruning their feathers on the banks and often sticking their bottoms in the air as they feed on the bottom of the silty moat!
Video clip: Great footage of them on the nest when they had just been born via the Palace You Tube channel.
Visit us today to see the swans and cygnets in real life. The swans are just one of many attractions and features at The Bishop's Palace and Gardens.
Wynn and Brynn facts
Arrived at palace: March 2013
Cygnets date of birth: Thursday 9 May, 2013
Number of cygnets: 7
Previous home: South Wales
Sets of cygnets last year: 2
Amount of mischief caused in previous hometown: Lots!
News story from March 2013
In recent months the mute swans at The Bishop’s Palace have caused quite a stir and made the national news; they’ve flown away, wild swans have arrived, turf wars have ensued and new swans have been rehabilitated and pipped to the post for food by cheeky Muscovy Ducks.
But as spring has arrived calm and order seems to be about to be restored as ripples of hope are growing on the moat that our newest resident swans are already beginning to display encouraging signs that we may be hearing the patter of tiny webbed feet in Wells this year.
The pair of swans, now known as Brynn and Wynn were re-homed from a Swan Rescue, South Wales in early March after the previous (rehabilitated) swans who were welcomed in June 2012 decided they felt well enough to swan off to pastures new in February this year.
This left us with only one swan floating on the moat – a giant five foot fibreglass swan called Guinevere; A legacy of last summer’s successful city-wide event, Swans of Wells.
Carol and Paul Arblastar, Palace Caretakers, welcomed Brynn and Wynn to the moat and have been making sure they have had plenty of attention ever since to encourage them to stay. “These are probably the smartest swans we have ever had – they learnt to ring the bell for food within two days – and not a cheeky Muscovy Duck in sight this time!
We’ve seen signs of the start of a spring mating dance on the water and we know from the Swan Organisation in South Wales that they had two sets of cygnets that we know of. We’d be so thrilled if they have cygnets whilst here at the Palace – our visitors absolutely love seeing the swans and it’s about time we had some cute little cygnets swimming around.”
A desire to immerse themselves in the community
Ellen Kershaw of Swan Rescue told us; “The swan family took to walking in a row through the back streets of Aberafon, mum in the front and dad taking up the rear. They had their set route and we could not make them deviate from that. We had loads of calls from the police and the residents, some of whom got to know them so well they would walk them back to their pond which of course saved us time going down there.”
“We wonder if we will be recreating those hilarious swan chasing scenes from Hot Fuzz that were partly filmed in the gardens here at the Palace this summer. It looks like a fun year ahead!” adds Carol.