A devoted gran has taken hundreds of starving swans under her wing – after workmen destroyed their habitat at a beauty spot where they lived.
Irene Hodges, 70, has forked out almost £20,000 on special seeds and pellets which she has given to the birds every day for the last ten years.
She has helped save hundreds of birds and now regularly looks after a flock of more than 50 at Chasewater pool, Staffs.
Her devotion to the flock has led her to being affectionately nicknamed “Swan lady Chasewater”.
The retired pharmacy worker started feeding the swans after the pools were drained in 2009 to build a dam and improve the surrounding country park.
As a result of the work, small fish, tadpoles and molluscs were destroyed leaving many swans struggling to find food.
Irene said: “I used to go just to visit the swans because they are so beautiful and gave me peace.
“They are so serene and the place is so beautiful.
“After the pool was drained to build a dam but they lost many of their feeding reserves and I became really concerned for them.
“The maintenance work was unavoidable but it almost destroyed the swans habitat.
“I knew the fish which they depend on had been taken away and I was worried either that the swans would starve or would fly away.
“I was desperate not to let that happen so I decided to help them stay put by feeding them.
“I did some research and found out the seed and pellets they like and just started bringing it in buckets to the pool at the same time each day.
“It went from there and every morning I just went along to make sure they were fed.
“It did the trick and none of them flew away and now there are more than 50 swans
thriving at the pool.”
The specialist food costs her £150-a-month which is funded by her husband Barrie, 70, who works part-time at a builder’s yard.
Irene added: “The cost of the food is expensive but I get donations which helps.
“Barrie should have retired five years ago but he still works two days a week just to earn enough to pay for the feed.
“The fat pellets we give them in winter, especially if the water freezes, are expensive. They need the fat to keep warm.
“They’re there waiting each morning. They know the time I get there which is about 11am every day.
“When the pool is full they run across the crazy golf course and try to get the food in my car.
“I don’t have a week’s holiday. I’m too dedicated – they need the food. Christmas Day and Boxing Day I’m here through rain or snow.
“We must love and look after our animals.”
Irene, who has two grown-up children and two grandchildren, says she has no plans to stop feeding the swans.
She added: “The swans aren’t aggressive to me. I walk in between them. But if anyone else comes they flap their wings.
“I’m their link to survival. I’m quite realistic about the relationship I have with them though and I know they don’t like me personally – it’s the food I bring.”