A County Durham woman who spent her time helping injured swans in her local park has been given a memorial.

Linda Charlton – known locally as ‘the Swan Lady’ – died earlier this year.

Linda’s commitment to the welfare of the swans in Riverside Park, Chester-le-Street, has now been commemorated by a memorial bench.

The bench has been placed near Linda’s favourite spot, where she sometimes spent hours feeding the swans.

Linda, originally from Berwick, started caring for the swans after the death of her son at the age of just 21.

She would sometimes wade into the water to rescue injured birds. She would take the wounded swans to her home on Ripon Street and care for them in her yard before releasing them back into the park when they were better.

Linda’s work has also been recognised by the RSPCA, who placed her on their 2018 Honours List for her services to wildlife.

Terry Haley, an RSPCA animal collection officer, said, “I nominated Linda for an RSPCA Honours Award, which she was given for her outstanding contribution to animal welfare, in particular her work with swans.”

“We at the RSPCA are indebted to Linda for the knowledge and expertise she passed on to me and my colleagues. She was the go-to lady for us and everyone else in the area; she really was the ‘swan lady’.”

“Two years ago, we had 60-odd swans deliberately poisoned and she was there every day and night helping to rescue them. Even when she was ill, she continued.”

“She was very, very well thought of – about a dozen RSPCA officers attended her funeral service.”

“She was funny, feisty, single-minded and a lovely person who we had more than a professional relationship with. We have all lost a good friend.”

Chester-le-Street’s Area Action Partnership’s principal community development officer, Derek Snaith, said, “Linda has made a lasting impression on many people here in Chester-le-Street.”

“For over 25 years, she selflessly dedicated her life to helping not just the region’s swans, but also the entire country’s through her campaigning.”

Linda Charlton’s memorial bench was funded by neighbourhood budget contributions from the Leader of Durham County Council and councillors Cllr Simon Henig, Cllr Beaty Bainbridge, Cllr Alan Bainbridge, Cllr Paul Sexton, Cllr Linda Marshall, Cllr Alan Bell and Cllr Audrey Wills.

Linda’s friends Vanessa, Mary, Joan, Chris, Carol, Karen and Jay are carrying on her work of caring for the swans in Riverside Park.   

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