Ventnor Park has recently been voted one of the South East’s most loved parks. It was one of 364 parks nominated nationwide as part of the UK’s Best Parks competition, run by Fields in Trust, a charity that has been legally protecting parks and green spaces since 1925.

Ventnor Park was voted the seventh most popular in the South East, out of 33 nominations, earning it ‘much loved’ status.

Ventnor Park is regarded as being ‘a park for the people’. It is an award-winning beauty spot, adored by locals and tourists alike, tucked away in a sheltered position between the sea and the South facing slopes of the Undercliff. 

The park was originally given to the people of Ventnor by the owners of Steephill Castle in the late 19th century. There is a bandstand in the park that was originally situated at the end of Ventnor Pier.

The Victorians believed that the mild climate here was good for the body and soul. Strolling around here, whatever the weather, you have to agree. The grounds are maintained by a dedicated team from the Isle of Wight Council, who have won many awards and TripAdvisor Certificates of Excellence.

Ventnor Park is also known for being home to large numbers of waterfowl, cared for by Maggie Nelmes. Maggie has been feeding the park ducks almost every day since the Autumn of 2002, when the Isle of Wight Council stopped feeding the park’s aquatic residents.

 

Maggie said: “The park gardeners were very upset when the council decided not to pay for the food of the ducks and moorhens. The head gardener ended up paying for their food out of his own pocket.

“Three of us were asked by Ventnor Town Council to look after the birds. They did not want people to believe they were being starved.”

 

Maggie continued: “We feed the ducks with corn according to RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) advice and supplement their diet to keep them healthy. White bread damages the birds’ kidneys and poisons their water. Our birds won’t touch it.”

When asked what us humans can do to protect wildfowl. Maggie said: “Humans have taken away the birds’ wild habitat. Therefore, they have to rely on people for help and protection.

The most important thing for park users to understand about the birds, is that firstly, they are wild animals, which should never be handled. Secondly, dogs can kill ducks, so please keep them under control. Finally, do not feed them with white bread. It’s not good for their digestive system.”

When asked why she has devoted so much of her free time over the past 17 years to protecting Ventnor Park wildfowl, Maggie said: “Ducks are poorly understood by the general public. Their behaviour is fascinating to watch.

“We have lost our connection with nature. People may think they understand our feathered friends, but in reality know little about them. For example, not many people are aware that it is only female ducks which quack.

“Ducks are very good mothers. If attacked by dogs, they will often sacrifice themselves to save their brood. They won’t fly away.”

Maggie has spent much of late summer and early autumn attempting to protect a brood of seven ducklings, whose mother was unfortunately killed by a dog. They are now eight weeks old, and will reach maturity at 14 weeks.

Let’s hope they all pull through.

Colin Clarke
Author: Colin Clarke