Two-and-a-half years ago, Bob and his daughter Amy started feeding the ducks on the River Alre, near where they live. Amy was born with brain damage and has complex epilepsy; Bob wanted something to give her purpose, and her love of ducks provided the perfect opportunity.
Every day, they would package up bags of feed and take them down to their feathery friends (including some that they’ve named Beaky, The Vicar, Oily and Chilly) as well as leaving some behind for locals to use.
Set up on a little caping table, with an honesty box to help buy the feed, the scheme took off. Now they are producing around 100 bags of food a week for the well cared for ducks, and Amy has got her classmates on the Skills for Life course at Totton College involved. They will be using the opportunity for a bit of work experience and to learn about nature.
Bob said it’s been a great thing for these young people to do through lockdown, and seeing the Totton teachers’ dedication to keeping the students stimulated through the pandemic inspired Bob to get all the students involved: “It’s been great for Amy not just mentally, but physically. I thought it might be a good thing for all the students to get involved in so they all get a chance to take part in some kind of work experience.”
Totton College took Bob’s idea and made it into a well-rounded, inclusive learning package, where each student has their own job and they create the packages during their arts and crafts classes.
Even after Amy finishes her course at the college, she will be involved, helping to deliver lessons and working to keep the duck food production going. ‘Amy’s Duck Feeding Table’ has over 1,000 followers on Facebook and Amy and Bob have become local celebrities.
They have even been awarded Wildlife awards, won Community Spirit awards and most recently the Mayor of Winchester Community Award for services to the people.
Over lockdown, many of us have turned to nature for comfort and the demand for Amy’s duck food has shown that. Whether the positive impact on mental health, the sense of routine in a crisis, or just feeling connected to the natural world around us, having access to nature brings so much joy to life.