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Opinion: The Wey Direct – Not Sports Direct

Debenhams’ restaurant overlooking Millmead

By David Bentley – photos by Mandy Millyard

One of the nicest places to go in Guildford, these days, is Debenhams restaurant.

But I am worried that the store’s excellently prepared breakfast and lunches directly overlooking the Wey and the idyllic riverside scene around Millmead might become a thing of the past.

The view of Millmead that can be enjoyed by Debenhams’ customers as they dine

Mike Ashley is the bogeyman threatening this priceless Guildford asset.

The unpopular owner of Newcastle United has amassed a 29.7% stake in Debenham’s PLC, via his Sports Direct, which is a major tenant inside many of the stores, positioning him for a bid to get control of the major retailer.

If this happens, I am very afraid that Debenhams, as we know it, and, more specifically, the riverside restaurant in the Guildford location, would very soon be subjected to a terribly disruptive mauling.

Especially as retailing in general is having such a hard time of it as click and collect takes its toll of the high street.

So, is there anything we can do about this?

Not much, if the railway station redevelopment disaster is any guide.

But I would suggest that Guildford residents should at least be aware of the threat to Debenhams and its restaurant – and start thinking about ways to highlight its value as a precious community asset.

Ducks & Swans Note

Millmead Ducks: “So what are you hoping to
get – a nice bit of Italian granary or
the seed mix?”

While I am on the subject of Millmead, I might just pass on a message from the ducks and swans who hang out there.

They have been making it clear that a famine situation is now besetting them – especially as they go into the nesting season – because someone at the nearby Guildford Borough Council offices has put up a sign, telling people not to feed them bread.

Some misguided official has actually attempted to claim that the waterfowl themselves have asked not to get their bread – because the sign purports to have been signed by them.

Surely this is misrepresentation? It ought to be illegal.

Bread has been a staple for ducks for as long as anyone can remember. Have you ever seen dead ducks collapsed after a dose of bread poisoning? Of course not?

The council’s duck feeding sign

And bread is very easily attainable – far more so than the, perhaps ideal, special grains that the council officer is advising should be substituted.

To understand the plight of the ducks, just go there and see how hungry they are – and take some bread with you.

What are your views? Is Sports Direct good for Debenhams? And what about bread for ducks? Use the Leave a Reply feature below to have your say.

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3 Responses to Opinion: The Wey Direct – Not Sports Direct

  1. Darrol Radley Reply

    March 30, 2018 at 4:24 pm

    The only way to ensure the future of the Debenhams restaurant is for it to offer its customers good food at a fair price with good service thereby drawing its customers back time and again.

    It is a simple commercial principle. I do not share the writer’s pleasant experiences at this restaurant and unless others are as supportive and appreciative as Mandy, the restaurant may struggle as indeed Debenhams is struggling.

    As for the ducks, I too grew up feeding bread to ducks, in Shere mainly on Sunday afternoon family walks. However, it is now clear and well known that bread is bad for ducks because the food has little nutritional value and can harm ducklings’ growth, pollute waterways and attract rodents and other pests.

    The website The Spruce has some good advice on the subject: https://www.thespruce.com/what-to-feed-ducks-386584.

    In fact, bread is the equivalent to junk food for birds. Like humans would suffer from a diet of nothing but candy, too much bread can lead ducks to excessive weight and malnutrition as well as many other problems.

    So the misguided person is certainly not the official and should be commended for producing such an enlightened sign.

  2. Ros McMillan Reply

    April 5, 2018 at 6:07 pm

    I agree that Sports Direct is having a dire effect on Debenhams. Its loud advertising is off-putting and the display of its goods is pretty tacky. I hope it doesn’t get worse, but I fear it will.

    As for the ducks, I refer you to one of many articles on the subject under three headings:

    Nutrition: Bread, particularly white bread, doesn’t provide the balanced nutrition that ducks need to thrive. The concern is that ducks feeling full of an easy supply of bread won’t then be eating their naturally nutritious diet. Malnourished ducks could be more susceptible to disease and predators, may be less likely to breed successfully and their young could develop deformities.

    Pollution: This is as much down to overfeeding as it is the bread. Although an average UK human lunch is a sandwich of two slices of bread, our much smaller feathered friends can be thrown loaves and loaves of bread. Sometimes because people take so much bread with them, sometimes because lots of people visit the same spot with bread.
    What the ducks don’t eat decays in the water, encouraging bacteria and algae which can poison ducks and other creatures making the water their home. Waste bread also attracts vermin such as rats, who apparently have particularly unpleasant urine.

    Behaviour: Linked to nutrition, the experts worry that when overfed with an easy supply of bread, the ducks aren’t foraging for their natural and more nutritious foodstuffs. Plus in areas prone to overfeeding, large groups can form and quickly turn riotous. What may have been intended as an act of kindness, can make life much worse for the ducks.

  3. Russell Morris Reply

    April 9, 2018 at 4:57 am

    Feeding ducks bread? I would consider the RSPB to be a greater expert on avian dietary requirements than is David Bentley.

    They say it is definitely not a good idea. Not the least problem is that it fills them with food that does not contain the nutrients essential for rearing healthy young.

    There are other readily available foodstuffs that the birds will enjoy just as well and will help their survival far better.

    Of course the birds will enjoy bread. If that is the only criteria that matters to Mr Bentley, he might happily recommend raising children on a diet of crisps, biscuits, fries and fizzy drinks. The kids won’t complain.

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