Ditchling Common Swans Update

East Sussex Wildlife Rescue has e-mailed East Sussex County Council the following:

To: countrysidemanagement@eastsussex.gov.uk

On Wednesday 24th August we were called to rescue one of the cygnets at Ditchling Common lake due to fishing line in its throat. Whilst there we spotted the dead body of the remaining lone parent floating in the water.  As a result of the lone parent being found dead we have removed the final cygnet too.

The dead parents body was removed and taken to our vets for an x-ray. They clearly show the swan to have been shot twice with air guns as well as a fishing hook in the body and a recently broken wing.  The body x-ray was taken with the neck resting on the back and shows the two pellets, a hook and a recently fractured wing which is healing. The second x-ray is of the neck just below the head.

Swan X-ray 1
Swan X-ray 1
Swan X-ray 2
Swan X-ray 2









Walkers at the lake have mentioned that within the past couple of weeks a walker allowed their dog to attack the swan which may have resulted in the fracture and we are waiting on an opinion from the Swan Sanctuary’s vet on the damaged caused by the air gun pellets.  As it is possible to class swans as crown property it may be possible to prove criminal damage if the pellets can be matched to a weapon, so have put in a report to Sussex Police.

East Sussex WRAS are looking at issuing a reward of £1000 for information which directly leads to the conviction of the person responsible for causing criminal damage to this swan.  We will be issuing a press release within the week.

This site is the worst we have encountered in terms of the number of calls we received for fishing tackle and dog attacks.  Every time we have to get in the lake for a rescue we are tripping over line, and have even had hooks embedded in our dry suits too.  Action needs to be taken to manage the fishing better and clean up after irresponsible persons fishing. We are well aware that a number of regular fishmen at the site are as frustrated as we are over the irresponsible fishermen, but if the site can't be improved then fishing should be banned all together to prevent the degree of suffering which has been caused at this site.

Sadly a litter pick of the area is not good enough to improve the problem, it needs a team of people to get in the lake and clear it properly as well as clearing over hanging branches to help prevent line and hooks becoming snagged on branches, and restricting where fishing takes place. We would also recommend that the area directly around the pond should be fenced off and notices erected saying dogs should be kept on a lead within this area.

Trevor Weeks MBE

Operations Director

East Sussex Wildlife Rescue & Ambulance Service (WRAS)

Office: 01825-873003 Mobile: 07931523958.

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5 thoughts on “Ditchling Common Swans Update

  1. Jenny Fisher

    I am so pleased to see that you are trying to protect our beautiful wildlife. I sincerely hope this will help the council understand the importance of taking action now.

  2. Hayley Woods

    I am a regular dog walker in ditching common and have come across the swans on many occasions.
    This is just my opinion from
    A dog walking point of view.
    My 2 dogs are Labradors and are 1 and 15.
    About a month ago I feared for my old dogs life as he was just wallowing in the water to keep cool (no swan in sight) and then literally out of nowhere the swan was gliding across from the other side of the pond where the cynet was being fed, and started trying to drown my dog. He posed no threat to the swan.
    Only after reading all the comments I realise that he/she has to be over protective to protect the young cygnets on his own.
    I also think it's slightly unfair to label all dog walkers as inconsiderate, as its only fair the dogs can have a drink and a cool down (away from the swan)
    Im reckoning that the evidence that the swan was targeting over a period of time, lead him to become a little more aggressive?
    No excuse for any of this, but as I say it's unfair to blame everyone for this unfortunate event, which was clearly carried out by a select few.

    1. East Sussex WRAS

      Post author

      I don't think anyone is labeling all dog walkers as inconsiderate. Its the same for the fishing line incidents, we don't blame all fishermen. Swans do not pose a significant risk to your dog, and could not cause any serious injury to your dog. They don't have teeth, and at best would only cause a bruise, unlike dogs which have teeth and frequently cause the death and serious injury to swans and other waterfowl. It is also not fair on the waterfowl who live here to have their home invade by visitors and their lives made a misery. We have these incidents occurring at most other park ponds and lakes, and we are not calling for any action to be taken there, but only at Ditchling due to the volume of calls and incidents which have occurred - we have records going back over 10 years. This is the worse site in East Sussex for such incidents by a long way. Due to this level we feel action needs to be taken.

  3. Neil

    I am a very keen carp angler & I live very locally to the pond. It would also be fair to say that I am very experienced, as I have been carp fishing go over 30 years on a number top carp waters.

    I joined the lake last year & tried to fish the lake, but it became very apparent that there were numbers of anglers who were just camping out on the lake for weeks & weeks at a time trying to catche the 40lb plus common carp that lives in the lake & that any normal angler who only gets the odd weekend to fish had absolutely no chance of getting a look in.

    Also there were many issues troubling me about what the lake had become due to the actions of some total idiots.

    Here are some of the issues I encountered

    1) the lake was covered in litter left by anglers !

    2) there was human excrement & toilet paper all over the place in the bushes surrounding the lake !

    3) there was a large amount of discarded fishing line hooks & other end tackle all over the place, in the trees, on the bank edges, in the water all over the place & worstly hanging from at least two of the swans I could see

    4) in the summer when the water levels are very low the oxygen levels in the water are very low & this has a very bad effect on the carp as they need oxygen to survive, this is a point that I phoned & made to the ranger, who basically wasn't that interested.

    5) the condition of the fish is is deteriorating quite fast due to how regularly caught, in the big commons case at least 10 times a year. I witnessed a fish being dragged through the lillies one day & when I asked the guy who caught it why he was fishing in the middle of the lillies he just said "that's where they are" !!!! Any angler that is a sensible angler would never fish like that as you can only do damage to the fish like that, and so was the case with this fish, it's mouth was badly torn, it had a very nasty deep gash about 5" long under its pectoral fin where the line had cut into it & it also had a broken rib, where I can only assume it had been poorly looked after on the bank at some point.

    I could go on but I think the issues I have raised here shoul be more than enough !!!!

    I think it is very sad it has come to this due to the desperate measures some anglers will go to to catch a big carp. I fished the pond when I was a child and loved every minute of it & never was there any problems like this.

    The only reason all this is happening is due to the size of the carp in the pond.

    In my opinion, for what it is worth !!!! The carp should be moved to another lake that suits there needs much better than here, a bigger deeper lake where they are not able to continuously be dragged in and out. Then the amount of anglers desperate to catch these fish will decrease to next to none, and the pond can go back to how it was before, with the odd dad taking his littlun over there to teach him, or her to fish with a float or similar for tiddlers and enjoying themselves like I did when I was a kid

    By the way I'm 47 years old now !

  4. I am a wild life photo camera man and have been taking photos of swans on the lake for. 50 years lam going to miss the swans.itis time that fishing was stopped on the common and the fish removed.


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