Duck may be on the menu at Jeremy’s Restaurant at Borde Hill Gardens near Haywards Heath ... but shhh ... don’t tell this lot.
Ducks have been nesting outside the restaurant for the past 18 years ever since restaurateur Jeremy Ashpool opened his eponymous eaterie.
Every year Mallard ducklings have enjoyed the little pond and fountain in the restaurant garden - aided and abetted by Jeremy’s Danish wife Vera, who feeds the brood every morning on the restaurant terrace with home-made walnut bread.
Said Jeremy: “The mother duck, which we always call Penny even though it’s probably a different duck some years, lays her eggs in the walled garden, usually in a hidden secluded spot.
“This year however, Penny chose her nest site in a flowerbed close to our terrace
where there’s much daily human traffic.”
Vera, who runs the Café Elvira next door to her husband’s restaurant, “feared the worst for the outcome” says Jeremy. “But no, 11 ducklings, closely attended by proud mum are happily enjoying the facilities - swimming, feeding and occasionally waddling into therestaurant interior - perhaps to enquire why Vera is late with leftover bread.
“On one occasion they wandered into the restaurant just as we were about to serve lunch.
“We’re pretty certain that some years the mother duck was a duckling from the previous year’s brood.”
Vera calls Penny and her family to the terrace every morning when she arrives at her café for the feeding ritual, and they immediately make their way through the apple trees to greet her.
“She is nearly as proud as Penny herself,” says Jeremy, “keeping a watchful eye for any circling crow with evil intent.
“Good job she doesn’t brandish a shotgun!”