Opinion with Jane Wenham-Jones: This Gull knows which side her bread is buttered…. 

Love them or hate them....

And you thought it was only M**ST*N that caused outrage.

I have recently come across another issue that brings on the invective. “I hate them,” said an acquaintance recently, with the sort of vengeance I would reserve for someone who’d wiped out my entire family. “I love them,” says my friend Janice, mistily, declaring when I send her a photo of one washing his feet: “He is beautiful.”

I am talking, of course, of those flapping, squawking, Marmite-creatures – the Thanet Herring Gulls.

I know they’re not everyone’s cup of tea, but poking about in local groups online, I have been astonished by the level of passion they arouse. People claiming they are vermin (actually they are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981), people wanting to shoot them or give them birth control, others saying they are driven insane by the noise. It’s called ‘Living by the Seaside’, love. Would you rather put up with inner-city fumes and sirens wailing all night?

Gulls can be trying, I agree. Especially the seagull kids. Two of which are tromping about, incessantly squeaking and trying to chuck my flowerpots around, as I type. My neighbours probably assumed we were mid-domestic the other afternoon when I was shrieking “That is IT! Get out, Get out, you B*****d!”  In reality, the bigger of the Gull-kids had just uprooted a pansy for the fourth time. I think he is attracted to its lime green pot.

Bracing myself, I will confess: I have fed the seagulls for years. I see them as the perfect eco-food-disposal-system and one which means we have no food waste at all. Anything vegetable-based goes in the compost, but each evening I carry all meat or fish scraps – including the scrapings from plates – up the garden on to a specific patch of grass, they are already watching. There is a brief Hitchcock-type flurry and pow, it’s all gone. With nothing left to fester unpleasantly in the bin. I threw that horrible brown, council-issued slop bucket back into the recycling years ago, the very day it arrived.  And thank God I did, in this heat.

There are drawbacks to this method, for sure. Once you’ve started, it’s hard to stop. The latest family adopt us as a food bank every year, and pretty much insist on getting their rations. In the summer, if I want to leave my backdoor open, I block the opening with a chair. Otherwise, what is probably now a 10th generation gull will wander nonchalantly into the kitchen and finish off the cat’s food or stroll into the dining room in case there’s anything else to be had. My garden pond has to be covered with netting all year round; I occasionally have to hose down poo.

So, yes, I am stuck with them. But if you disapprove, as so many do, think of it this way. Come winter when the seafront pickings dry up, and the blighters are here in force, it’s my kitchen window they’ll be banging their beaks on. Rather than yours.

I AM thrilled to hear that the Dalby Café in Cliftonville has scooped a Traveller’s Choice award from Trip Advisor, a recognition that puts it in the top 10% of rated restaurants across the world. Not just because I love the Dalby – home of the best breakfast for miles – but because this accolade is a triumph for the importance of getting the basics right.

Owner Mark Ezekiel told The Isle of Thanet News that the café spends “about £200 a week on good butter.” Oh, if only they all would. The benchmarks of a fine breakfast are many – thoughtfully-cooked eggs, decent coffee, proper bread etc – but for me, it’s whether they use actual butter – rather that that margarine muck – that’s the real deal-breaker.

I’ve breakfasted all across the Isle and been disappointed in how many establishments will serve up Flora – or worse – and think that’s OK. When it so clearly isn’t. I’d always pay more for the real stuff and shell out over the odds to get quality butter at home too (my current favourite being the French sort with sea-salt crystals. Wonder if that will survive Brexit?).

Good-quality butter transforms everything it touches, whether you spread it or cook with it – and I do both. It’s probably why the seagulls keep on coming …



  1. Unfortunately it is the people that unnecessarily feed the seagulls that cause problems for everybody else.

    There is hardly anywhere clean enough to sit at the steps or benches at Margate harbour because everywhere is covered in seagull guano from feeding frenzies bought about by morons feeding chips to the gulls. Said morons then scream in terror as they are dive bombed by two dozen gulls all fighting over one chip.

    My windows, window cills and car are also being constantly covered in guano as a result of my neighbours throwing food from their windows to feed the damn things. If I then don’t clean my car quick enough. the acid burns into the paintwork and leaves my car in a sorry state.

    So Jane, you are a fool to yourself – and I bet your neighbours are not best pleased with your actions either !

  2. I am in my late 70’s and have spent at least two thirds of my life working on, and living near the sea, and Gulls are a pest! Few would know what to do if it actually went into the sea, because they make a good living breaking into rubbish bags, and from people misguidedly feeding them, the end result of which is then s**t indiscriminately, largely when in flight! Some years ago, dressed in my Sunday best, I had got about 100 meters from my home, when I was s**t on from head to toe! No, do not encourage them, especially do not feed them, as all animals will multiply given a readily available source of food!

  3. It’s selfish idiots like you that make other people’s life a misery. STOP FEEDING THE GULLS! Your neighbours must love you – being woken at 4am every morning by screeching gulls crapping on their cars and windows.

  4. I live inland but herring and Greater black backed gulls nest and flourish, but since lock down what with the takeaways shut, they have not bred this year, has anyone else noticed this?

  5. Perhaps the woke law protecting gulls should be changed to allow destrucion of eggs and control of numbers. It’s not a new method, Ramsgate council had a team to do this 60 years ago and it worked.

  6. The feeding of seagulls, as Ms Jones describes, is the height of irresponsibility. The gulls come to associate humans with food, whether the humans like it or not.
    I’ve seen gulls pluck food out of unsuspecting people’s hands; on one occasion a child, very very upset and alarmed, had her icecream stolen.
    The birds are big, heavy, fast and with razor sharp bills. You might be lucky and just lose your pastie. Or you might lose your finger, or an eye.
    Don’t do it.

  7. Pricking their eggs sounds a good idea, but you would need a suit of armour as PPE. Years ago one of my cats was bitten at the base of its tail, after it got too close to a fledgling Gull on the ground. The vet said the cat was unlikely to survive as the wound was so deep, and infected. None the less he gave us antibiotics for ten days, and the cat did survive, but it was so unlike the cat we had before, it was always so angry, no one could get near her! We sent her on an anger management course, which was a waste of time!

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