Winter wildlife at Bodiam Castle

Mallard ducks in the snow at Bodiam Castle in East Sussex

In winter the castle is quiet but out in the grounds there's still activity as the squirrels scurry around and the ducks flock to greet every visitor with their noisy chorus.

Get out and about in the grounds

This winter get out and about in the castle grounds and discover some of the secrets of our wildlife residents.

Look for signs of winter wildlife and discover some of the interesting features in our grand old trees in the grounds with our Winter I-Spy trail or pick one up for free from Visitor reception on arrival and set off on your voyage of discovery.

 Bodiam Castle Winter I-Spy trail (PDF / 1.7MB) download

Stop on the bridge and look into the moat

The fish that you'll see in the moat below you as you cross the bridge to the castle are carp. In medieval England, carp were a regular food source and bred specifically for that purpose by monks.  Ours are not descended from those fish but came instead from Richborough Power Station near Sandwich in Kent in 1996 when it closed down.
 
Carp and ducks on Bodiam Castle moat
carp and ducks in the moat of Bodiam Castle
Carp and ducks on Bodiam Castle moat
 
The monks used to breed the carp so they had the least scales, which is where the descriptions, mirror carp and leather carp come from.  By breeding the carp in this way, it helped to save time in the kitchens.
 
Carp for eating wouldn’t have been kept in the moat originally because all the garderobes were emptied into it and so it is thought that they were kept in special ponds to the north west of the castle.  You can still see the dips in the grounds where these ponds were likely to be sited.  
 
You'll notice that the moment you tread on the bridge the fish will come to the surface and gape at you. It is sometimes thought that they are doing this as they need air, but this isn't the case they’re begging, just like a dog might do at the table. There are plenty of nutrients in the muddy moat waters, even though it may not look like it, and so we ask visitors not to feed the fish.
 

Our wildlife residents

In the cold weather our ducks will be very pleased to see you and will welcome you with a quacking chorus. We prefer the ducks to forage naturally for their food but if you want to feed them please only give them grain or seeds and they'll welcome the odd, small piece of lettuce too. These foods are more akin to their natural diet and helps to keep their gut healthy. Bread and other processed foods are not good for them.