Regular visitors to a moated medieval manor house in North Yorkshire may have been wondering why there has been no word about a popular attraction so far this year.

A pair of black swans has long been a highlight of visits to Markenfield Hall near Ripon, but sadly Scilla the female swan was killed by a fox in January, and her partner Simon was found cowering under nearby bramble bushes, severely traumatised at the loss.

Thankfully, after some TLC and some nights spent in the warmth of the Log Shed, Simon was deemed well enough and – most importantly – young enough to be introduced to a new partner. Although they mate for life, if a swan is young it is sometimes possible to successfully introduce a new partner.

Simon the black swan

Simon the black swan

And so off went Simon to spend his winter with “Swan Man” Mr Todd at his farm near Thirsk, and to be gradually introduced to his new mate, who had travelled from Berwick upon Tweed to be introduced to him.

Happily, all has gone to plan and Simon and his new (currently nameless mate) will be making their debut at the hall in time for the first fortnight of open days.

In recent years, the swans at Markenfield have quite regularly produced clutches of eggs resulting in a huddle of cygnets to greet visitors along with their parents. It is hoped that this will be the result this year too – in due course.

Black swans have a long history at Markenfield… When Lord and Lady Grantley came to begin the lengthy restoration of Markenfield Hall in the early 1980s, they were given a pair of black swans as a house-warming present. The donor was their friend Peter Olney, who at that time was curator of birds at the London Zoo.

Since then there have been black swans on the moat for thirty years uninterrupted, until now.

Markenfield Hall will be extending its open days slightly for the first time this year, meaning that the hall will be open from Saturday 4 to Sunday 19 May and again from Saturday 15 to Sunday 30 June (inclusive) from 2pm to 5pm each day with the last entry being at 4:30pm.

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