It was a love-match following in a tradition nearly 200 years old – but fears are growing that a famous swan has taken flight and is feathering his nest elsewhere.
Visitors to the Bishop’s Palace – adjacent to Wells Cathedral – are aghast that just one of the iconic swans is in residence on the moat.
Swans have been a feature of the Bishop’s Palace moat in the Somerset city since the 1800s, with subsequent feathered friends learning to ring a bell at the Gatehouse whenever they want feeding.
But now in what could be the celebrity break-up of the year, the male swan appears to have got a cob on and taken flight, leaving his female companion as the lonely inhabitant of the moat.
It flies in the face of a survey released yesterday that showed 91 per cent of married couples are happy together and that marriage rates are increasing.
A spokeswoman for the Bishop’s Palace was swift to say they are have not given up hope of a reconciliation.
“We can confirm that one of our swans is missing, the male one took to his wings and has taken flight,” she said.
“We have just his female companion now.”
It is thought that the male flew off more than a week ago – although he appears to have made one last visit to his mate, before deciding to abandon her once and for all.
Only time will tell if he is commuting from another love-nest or if his most recent visit was his swansong to his one-time mate.
“We understand he was spotted back at the weekend for a short time but disappeared again and hasn’t been seen since,” said the spokeswoman.
“We are hopeful that in fact he will decide the moat is an attractive place to live and return for good. But they are wild swans, they are free to come and go as they please.
“The swans we had before had only one wing each. But these ones came from a sanctuary and are wild.
“Yes we do care for them, feed them and look after them. Obviously we would like them to stay but if one wants to fly off we can’t stop them. However the female is here still, so we hope her mate will return.”
It is not the first time that the Bishop’s Palace swans have looked to pastures new.
In the mid-90s, police in Wells found a swan near their police station and released it on to the Somerset Levels, only to later discover it was the sole “widowed” swan that had been left on the moat after the death of its mate.
The escaped swan incident was later immortalised in the film Hot Fuzz.
The pair thought to have stayed on the moat the longest were Glinty and Ricky who were resident for about 15 years. Ricky sadly died and Glinty was given a new home at a swan reserve.
The Bishop’s Palace spokeswoman added that if the current feathered inhabitants have indeed broken up for good another swan will be introduced from a sanctuary to keep the female from pining.
The first to spot the possible separation of the two love-birds was Marianne Smith, a conveyancer with Chubb Bulleid Solicitors in Wells who walks past them every day.
So concerned have Marianne and her colleagues become they have been staging their own unofficial ‘swan watch’.
“We’ve been hoping the separation isn’t permanent,” she said.