The owners of Markenfield Hall have spoken of their heartbreak at a swan being stolen from their estate.
Lady Deirdre Curteis went to feed a pair of black swans on the moat at Markenfield Hall as usual last weekend. They had spent most of April making a nest on the bank at the front of the hall, and she was in the habit of taking jugs of grain out to them several times a day.
Last Saturday, though, something was different - there was only one swan, leading them to believe that the swan has been stolen.
Lady Deidre said: “I thought it was peculiar, as Sebastian - the male - always swims across when he sees anyone coming, but there was just one swan and it was sitting on the nest. A closer inspection showed that, in actual fact, the male was sitting on the nest, and Sylvia was nowhere to be seen.
"We searched for days, but found no trace anywhere - not even a feather, leaving only one conclusion: Sylvia had been stolen.
“Our swan man told us that it is not uncommon for thieves to take advantage of nesting birds, snatching them at their most vulnerable, but to think of it happening here - and when her egg was so close to hatching - is heartbreaking."
Markenfield’s moat has been patrolled by a pair of black swans since Lady Deirdre and the late Lord Grantley completed their phase of the hall’s restoration in the early 1980s, and were given the first pair by a friend who was the curator of birds at London Zoo - they, and their descendants, have been a constant feature ever since.
Now the search is on to find Sebastian a new mate before the hall opens its doors to the public in May.
Lady Deidre said: “He is still young, so we hope that he will accept a new female and that they will be able to live here in peace once more."
Markenfield Hall will be open to the public from May 5-19, and again from June 16-30, from 2pm to 5pm.