Tales of walking, eating, watching and playing. Vintage treasures and simple pleasures ... the things that make her happy.

Monday, 24 September 2012


The Swans of Wells  had their final Swansong on 14th/15th Sept,
 with a mass gathering at the Bishop’s Palace .   
The stunning medieval building and beautiful gardens, 
home to the Bishops of Bath & Wells for 800 years, 
was a perfect place to view the decorated birds.  
Each swan is to be auctioned on 29th September.  
All monies raised will be donated to local charities.

The Bishop’s Palace is famous for it’s ‘real swans’ who ring a bell by the gatehouse when they want food.  When the bell rings the palace caretakers are alerted and feed the swans!  The palace swans were first taught to ring a bell in the 1870s by the daughter of Bishop Hervey and the tradition has continued ever since.
The swans are trained to associate pulling the bell with food by tying a clump of bread to the bellrope for them to nibble.  When they pull the bread off the bell rings.  Less and less bread is tied onto the rope as they start to understand that pulling the rope and making the bell ring means food will soon appear.
The following extract was taken from the Bishop’s Palace website …

June 2012 – The Bishop’s Palace welcomed a new rehabilitated swan couple to the waters of the moat this June.

“They’ve settled in very well and have been enjoying cruising the entire circumference of the moat, getting their bearings and exploring their new home.
Training has begun with them but, as yet, they haven’t pulled the rope to ring the bell, just nibbled the bread.  It may have something to do with some bolder, cheekier Muscovy ducks that also live on the moat …

They are bustling the new swans out of the way to grab the rope and ring the bell to get fed.  It’s driving us quackers!”

“The swans seem shy” says Paul, “they hang back and let the Muscovy ducks do the ringing as they have learned how to do it.  The swans are slowly improving – hopefully they will get there in the end”.

The Bishop's Swan

She Built a nest of Silver Leaves

She took the purest silver leaves to make her nest,
And wove them in and out,
Pushing them,
Drawing them,
Easing them gently through the warp and weft of reeds.
And as she worked she sang,
And every song revealed a precious thought, 
A cherished moment - things that pleased her most.
Each thought a picture painted on the twigs,
A book of tales among the leaves,
A nest of songs,
A work of love,
A lullaby.
And when her task was done she sighed and slept,
And dreamt of fledglings, warm, protected,
Safe within her silvered hall, her nest of memories.

by Ian Marlow


The Dainty Dolls House said...

What an amazing place...I want to go there :)) And the swans are fantastic, never seen an event like this...am so glad you got pictures, it looks super :)) xx

Tangled Sweetpea said...

Fabulous photographs! What an atmospheric place.
Victoria xx

Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Hello Marina:
We once had a relative who lived near Wells and we clearly remember the bell ringing performance at feeding time. Such a curious sight. However, we were never there for this marvellous 'Swan Lake' of an event. Such fun it all looks to be.

We think that Wells is a charming town and is particularly attractive around the Bishop's Palace. Your photographs have brought back happy memories for us and they capture the place perfectly.

Maria said...

Just showed my other half this charming post!
I want to go there too, I must put in my wish list...
I love the Bishops Swan the best, just beautiful and thank you for sharing this.
I loved that the swanns will be auctioned for charities!!
wishing you aa week full of loveliness.
love Maria x

Maria said...

Oops apologies for terrible spelling, will blame it on my not wearing my hubbies reading glasses!
hehe xxx

Liz said...

How interesting! Love all those swans - how inventive some of the decoration is!
Liz @ Shortbread & Ginger

June said...

A super post. What a marvellous building and how fascinating that the swans like Pavlov's dogs have learnt that by pulling a bell they will be fed. The arty swans are fab too.

Katie said...

I love the swans. My favourite is the patchwork swan with the cheeky mouse! xxx

YeamieWaffles said...

These are all so awesome looking Jane, I love the comment and hope that the day was a great success for a great cause. I had worried by the title swansong you were making a last post but thankfully you weren't!

*Maristella* said...

Hi Marina.
Questi cigni sono davvero geniali e molto belli, adoro questo soggetto...è elegante e solenne!
Molto bella Wells,ci siamo già stati parecchie volte ed è sempre una cittadina deliziosa e d accogliente!
Un abbraccio, *Maristella*.

Kristie Franklin said...


I found your post very interesting and I absolutely loved it! What are the swans that get auctioned off made of? I am amazed that swans (which I think are the loveliest of all water birds) can learn to pull the rope for food. I think that's so cool! I never would have thought that they could be trained to do that!

I'm so glad you had such a great time on vacation but I'm also glad your back too! :)

Melanie said...

What a charming story! I like all the decorated swans. They do this kind of auction in my city too, with decorated orcas and eagles to name a few. The grounds there are amazing.

Blue Eyed Night Owl said...

This is wonderful!
We actually had something like it a few years back, only they painted elephants. Swans are more elegant though!
Thanks for taking all those pictures so we could see too:)


Vintage Sheet Addict said...

These are fab, how surreal! Ada :)

Alix said...

This was fascinating, and the pictures so lovely! I love the 'Le coeur fidele' swan - beautiful. Hope all the clever creations raise lots of money.

nilly said...

The swans are amazing and look like they are made from white pottery, but I doubt they are. Thank you for this story about Wells which I'd never heard before - and I'm glad it isn't your swansong!

Rustic Vintage Country said...

Oh my Goodness, totally amazing! x

Flaming Nora said...

Wow! that is amazing. How lucky you were to have seen them all in one place.

Miss Simmonds Says said...

How beautiful!! I really love them, what a wonderful idea!

...Tabiboo... said...

How strange, but so beautifully decorated.

Nina x

sarah-jane down the lane said...

Oh Jane this is so gorgeous! Those swans ~ right Down my Lane, dearly wish I had seen them, and in such a spectacularly incongruous setting! Lovely poem too,
Sarah -x-

demie said...

I would love t ovisit this place, while this event is taking place! It's just so weird and wonderful!

A Treasured Past said...

The swans are amazing. We were lucky enough to see one of the lions in bath last year..they were amazing too.
The story of the real swans is really interesting. Thanks for sharing.

Madelief said...

What a beautiful location for the swans of Wells. Some look really special.

Wish you a happy weekend!

Madelief x

Auntie Bliss said...

That is such a cool thing about the swans ringing the bell!!
Beautiful pics!

Jenny Woolf said...

What a wonderful looking place. Wow. And the swans are so interesting and creative. I enjoyed looking at this post.

thesnailgarden said...

Wow, those swans are amazing! A lovely post. Pj x

Mary Lou said...

wow that palace is breathtaking beautiful! and i have to confess i have a weakness for swans, wonderful and elegant animals!
love and kiss,mary