Have Seagulls had their Chips?

Have Seagulls had their Chips?

BEFORE our holiday visitors flock back a quick word to the natives, if we may, about our seagulls.

They are, first and foremost, terrible chip-stealers of course and have been since potatoes were first introduced into Devon by Sir Walter Raleigh, in 1587 or thereabouts. But since 1902 the ancestors of those gulls have turned their attention increasingly to ice cream cones, the seagull take-away of choice.

This was the year in which one Antonio Valvona registered his patented ice cream cone-maker in London. It was the sign for every British seaside resort to carry out a final wash-up of the little glass dishes from which they had dispensed “penny ices” since time immemorial and turn instead to the new edible biscuit cones or ‘cornets’ as Signore Valvona dubbed them.

That’s when the trouble started. Instead of standing next to the stall eating ice creams from those little glass dishes, unwary visitors now began strolling along the proms, holding their cornets a little in front or to one side, to avoid any drips spoiling their smart, holiday clothes as they took a lick. This was – and still is – an open invitation to a seagull to swoop and swipe.

No wonder today’s visitors become miffed at the notices so many Councils have erected telling them not to feed seagulls. “We don’t feed ‘em, they help themselves!” is the all too frequent cry. In Aldeburgh, Suffolk, those protestations are falling on deaf ears.  Aldeburgh Council now imposes a penalty of £2,500 on anyone found feeding seagulls. Can you believe it?

Will Devon follow suit?   Or should we instead put up notices which are less antagonistic towards our visitors – visitors who see themselves, quite rightly, as victims rather than offenders?

John Fisher

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Writer, author, script and sketch-writer, cartoonist, public speaker, Visitor Engagement Volunteer (National Trust) and would-be ukelele virtuoso.