A beautiful love story filled with sadness, joy, swans and big blue Ikea bags

  • london
  • June 2, 2020
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A swan has found love again after personal tragedy, in a story that took place on London’s Hampstead Heath.

It’s a moving tale that can give hope to the lonely – but we’d like to to hand over to the team who run the park to tell it, as they have done such a good job already.

They posted the account on Twitter, and it has since been shared thousands of times.

Here it is…

Back in 2016, two swans lived happily in the Heath’s ponds (on the Highgate side)…

Swans generally mate for life – like humans, they will sometimes get ‘divorced’, and if one dies they will often find another partner. One day, the pair were flying together when the male swan hit a building and sadly died. His widow was left alone on the Highgate ponds.


We’d like to tell you all a story of love, loss and big blue Ikea bags, by popular demand! It’s the story of a swan, and takes place on London’s famous Hampstead Heath (that’s us). Back in 2016, two swans lived happily in the Heath’s ponds (on the Highgate side)… pic.twitter.com/ia0TS0H5Vj

— Hampstead Heath (@CityCorpHeath) June 1, 2020

For four years, the widowed swan spent her days alone, flying between the Highgate ponds as if looking for her lost mate. Just after he died she made a nest and laid unfertilised eggs. She never left to find anyone new, and any suitors who tried their luck were swiftly rejected.

Earlier this year, another pair of swans appeared on the Highgate ponds. Swans are territorial so we all wondered how she would react. Then she disappeared and nobody could find her! Was this the tragic consequence of a swan turf war? Had she fled, or been killed by the new pair?

A few days later, just before the UK went into lockdown, our Heath rangers received a phone call from a woman living nearby who had an unusual problem: there was a swan stuck on her roof. Could it be our widowed swan? All in a day’s work for our rangers, so up they climbed…

The swan on the roof was quickly identified as our missing widow. She was collected by the amazing volunteers from The Swan Sanctuary, which really deserves its own thread: its founder, Dot Beeson, started it in her backyard, sold her own home to expand it and was awarded an MBE!

The rescued swan spent the weekend at the Swan Sanctuary. Since January, the Sanctuary had been home to a male swan, who’d been rescued after a territorial fight at Waltham Abbey and needed surgery to remove two fishing hooks found in his throat. Our widow was placed in his pen.

Soon she seemed fine to head home, so they went to retrieve her. The large male swan stood in the way. They let the two settle and tried again, and again he stood in the way. When they finally got her into the car, she cried for the male swan. Could it be love at first sight?

The Sanctuary volunteers had to make a quick decision. They decided Wallace, her apparent new love, should come back to the Heath with her! Aww!

Side note here: Ikea bags make great swan carriers, and their long necks sticking out like an awkward impulse buy is always funny.

Back at the ponds, Swan Sanctuary volunteer and wildlife photographer Louisa Green kept a watchful eye on the pair – would they be happy back on the Heath together? Would Wallace take off after his weekend love affair? But it soon became apparent they had found true love.

While the established swan couple on the other side of the Heath became parents once again, Louisa received messages from around the world asking after the widow and Wallace (which should definitely be the name of this book). Locals doing their daily exercise helped keep watch.

Soon it was obvious to the regulars that our newlyweds had eggs of their own, as the female swan could usually be found sitting on her well-hidden nest. Yesterday, two months after their return to the Heath, the perfect happy, fluffy ending to the swan love story hatched!

We hope you’ve enjoyed our little swan love story. Many thanks to our Heath rangers and Louisa Green for always going above and beyond for our troublesome swans, and to The Swan Sanctuary and all its volunteers for their amazing work.

The Swan Sanctuary’s founder Dot Beeson sadly passed away on 1 May following a battle with COPD and cancer. This was the same morning that the other cygnets on the Heath hatched. We dedicated this new sturdy raft on the Hampstead No 2 pond to Dot.

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at [email protected].

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