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Chester animal lover would break law to feed ducks this winter

'Chester duck lady' fears being criminalised by PSPO

THE ‘Chester duck lady’ will defy the law if Cheshire West and Chester Council makes it ‘illegal’ for her to feed waterfowl on the Shropshire Union Canal throughout the cold winter months.

Jenny Stone, 67, of Wharton Court, has a daily routine which involves feeding ducks and swans from The Bridge Inn at Boughton right through to the Northgate Locks near Telford’s Warehouse from 9am up until 8pm.

Jenny estimates she feeds about 350 wildfowl every day and has done over the past four winters.

But she fears the possible introduction of a Public Space Protection Order in the city centre because the draft order includes a proposal to ban feeding any bird which would put her in breach even though the measure is probably aimed at tackling the pigeon problem. However, she would defy the law and take the consequences, even if it meant paying a £100 on-the-spot fine.

“Oh yes, but I don’t know how I’d pay it,” said the retired accountant.

Jenny’s late husband Nick died of cancer 17 years ago aged 49 and 10 years ago her only child, daughter Amanda, 32, a Merseyside Police officer, was tragically killed in a horse riding accident. Jenny admits her daily feeding looks after the wildlife but also keeps her going.

Amanda Stone, 32, a Merseyside Police officer, of Wervin, formerly of Upton High and the Hammond School, who was killed after being thrown off her horse in 2005.

“They’re my babies,” she said. “Life’s never the same once you’ve lost a child. It’s very strange. You learn to live with it but I get days now where something just clicks.

“I’m scared to get close to people because I’m always scared of losing them. This keeps me busy, I don’t know what I’d do without it.”

Jenny has developed a close relationship with the waterfowl who recognise her and even her car.

“You know the old B & M store? I had about seven of them followed me into there one day. I turned around and I had seven ducks behind me! Even when I’ve been shopping and parked the car, I come out and there’d be ducks around my car.”

Jenny Stone feeding the ducks on the Shropshire Union Canal by the locks at Boughton.

She has filled in a CWaC questionnaire as part of the PSPO consultation process. Signals coming from the council and police indicate the proposed bird feeding ban won’t be implemented but Jenny won’t be reassured until she sees it in black and white. She also disagrees with other elements of the controversial PSPO such as fining rough sleepers for lying down and unauthorised busking.

She commented: “I think they’re being silly with these homeless people. How on earth can homeless people find these fines? And also the street performers, they don’t bother me, if they want to sit there and do silly things. I mean, I know some of them are not very good, but they’re not committing a crime while they’re there.”

She added: “Some of these councillors – there’s one at Winsford – they live in other towns, where people can feed ducks. Well, how come they can come into Chester and tell Cestrians what they can and can’t do? I think what they spend on all this stuff they could be building other places for the homeless. It must cost thousands.”

Jenny, who spends her pension on feeding the waterfowl with special food pellets and brown bread, hopes to set up a charity to fund her activities as ‘money is tight’ but must await the outcome of the PSPO process with a decision expected in November.

She advises members of the public not to feed birds with white bread as it gives them rickets and it should never be mouldy because it can kill. She keeps an eye on the welfare of the birds and is this week concerned after a cygnet disappeared with no trace of the body. Shockingly, she says people will take them for dog baiting or even if they want them ‘on their pond’.

“It’s a heart break every week out here,” she said.

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David Holmes
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