First Swan Upping of King’s reign to take place in July

The Sovereign’s Swan Marker counts the number of young cygnets each year.

The ancient tradition of Swan Upping – the annual census of the swan population along the River Thames – will take place for the first time under the King’s reign next month.

It has always been the duty of the Sovereign’s Swan Marker to count the number of young cygnets each year and ensure that the swan population is maintained.

The ceremony of Swan Upping takes place during the third week of July every year, and will begin on Monday July 17 from Sunbury lock cut, Middlesex, finishing at Abingdon Bridge, Oxfordshire, on Friday July 21.

Swan Upping
A cygnet is checked over near Chertsey in Surrey in 2022 (Steve Parsons/PA)

The King’s Swan Marker and the accompanying Swan Uppers of the Vintners’ and Dyers’ Livery Companies use six traditional Thames rowing skiffs in their five-day journey upstream to Abingdon.

Scarlet uniforms are worn by the King’s Swan Marker and Swan Uppers, and each boat flies the appropriate flag and pennant.

Announcing the schedule for Swan Upping 2023, the King’s Swan Marker, David Barber, said: “This will be the first time Swan Upping takes place under the flags of His Majesty King Charles III and the Crown boats will be proudly flying the pennants and flags bearing his new cypher.

“His Majesty is renowned for his deep and lifelong passion for wildlife, and I am sure this sustained interest will encourage young children to learn more about nature during the Swan Upping season.

“It has been a challenging year for the swan population given the spread of avian influenza, through which we have lost hundreds of swans on the River Thames alone.

“I am pleased to advise that the number of reports of infection has decreased in the past months, which is excellent news.

Swan Upping
David Barber checks over a swan last year (Steve Parsons/PA)

“We will be inviting local primary school children to participate in educational question-and-answer sessions throughout the week.

“The children will be able to meet the Swan Uppers and learn about the ecology of the mute swan and the history of Swan Upping.

“These sessions are a valuable learning experience for young children and we hope to encourage their interest in the natural environment.”

Mr Barber was the late Queen’s Swan Marker for 29 years and is now the King’s Swan Marker.

The Swan Upping ceremony dates back to the 12th century when the ownership of all unmarked mute swans in Britain was claimed by the Crown in order to ensure a ready supply for feasts.

It is the duty of the Sovereign’s Swan Marker to count the number of young cygnets each year on certain stretches of the Thames and its surrounding tributaries, and to ensure the swan population is maintained.

Its focus now is conservation and education.

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