Borough Insight

Bread isn't all it's quacked up to be

“Don’t cast your bread upon the waters” was the message from the Mayor of Epsom & Ewell, Councillor Liz Frost, as she inspected the newly refurbished pond in Rosebery Park.Pond 1

For many people, feeding ducks bread is not only a way to interact with wildlife, but it is also a handy way to dispose of old, stale bread. The RSPB have warned that waterfowl are likely to fill up on bread, which has no real nutritional value, instead of eating more healthy types of food. 

In the past, a few stale crust fed to the ducks was a bit of a ritual. Now park rangers report people buying whole loaves of cheap bread just to feed the ducks.

  • ducks and geese need a varied diet to be healthy, bread doesn't have much nutritional value and fills ducks up so they don't forage for foods they would naturally eat, which can lead to malnutrition and other disorders
  • mouldy bread can cause aspergillosis in waterfowl, a lung condition that is contracted from inhaling fungi spores
  • uneaten bread can encourage pests, such as rats
  • a heavy carbohydrate diet creates excessive amounts of bird droppings which can reduce water quality, spreads disease and encourages the growth of harmful algae in the water

We don’t want to stop people feeding the ducks, geese and other waterfowl on the pond or elsewhere, and the RSPB and others recommend:

  • Seedless grapes that have been cut in half
  • Cracked corn, oats and other grains
  • peas or sweetcorn (fresh, tinned or defrosted)
  • chopped lettuce
  • diced cucumber
  • Duck and swan food that has been specially formulated for waterfowl, available from pet shops and on the internet and it even floats so the ducks can find it more easily!

Not impressed with bread, an observer at the pond last week!

The Mayor was inspecting the pond following a major refurbishment and rebuild.

In 1913, Lord Rosebery gave the horsehead shaped piece of land to the council with the instruction that it was to be preserved and maintained as a public pleasure ground for the ‘resort and recreation’ of the inhabitants of Epsom. It was named Rosebery Park in gratitude.

The area had always been a bit marshy, as water flows underground down from what is now Mounthill Gardens, and it is probably why the area was not built on as the town grew. We do not know if the pond was here before the park, but we do know that the pond was extended in 1914 as the park was developed. Since that time, generations have enjoyed it and the waterfowl it attracts.

This pond is an iconic part of the park but 100 years had taken its toll. A couple of years ago it became apparent that the council’s routine maintenance was no longer enough. The edges of the pond were being seriously undermined and the banks were in danger of collapse.

When repair work got underway at the start of the year and the pond drained, it revealed that the damage was far worse than anticipated. Also there had been a huge build-up of silt, which had to be disposed of in a way that meets current safety legislation.

The mayor commented “As specified by Lord Rosebery when he gave the land, the council is accountable to maintain this valued asset, and it is great that in this spirit the pond has now been expertly repaired and refurbished. I would like to thank everyone responsible for the work undertaken – it not only looks fantastic but stands ready for the next 100 years and for future generations to enjoy”.

Pond 2

The Friends of Rosebery Park join the Mayor and Council staff at the pond last week
(photographs on this page courtesy of 'What's on in Epsom')

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