Published 19 June 2008

THE FOLLOWING STATEMENT IS ISSUED BY THE PRESS SECRETARY TO THE QUEEN

Swan Upping, the annual census of the swan population on a particular stretch of the River Thames, was announced today by David Barber, The Queen's Swan Marker.

This year's Swan Upping will start on Monday 14 July at Sunbury-on-Thames and end at Abingdon, Oxfordshire on Friday 18 July.

The ceremony of Swan Upping dates from the twelfth century and takes place during the third week of July every year. 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.

With the assistance of the Swan Warden, Professor Christopher Perrins of the University of Oxford, the swans and young cygnets are also assessed for any signs of injury or disease.

Announcing the dates for Swan Upping, David Barber reported:

"Last year saw significantly lower cygnet numbers than usual and it would appear that the situation has not improved in 2008. High water levels and strong currents in early June have washed away many nests and young cygnets struggle to survive once separated from their parents.

"During the five day journey there will be a strong emphasis once more on education, with many schools meeting the Swan Markers and Swan Uppers at various locations en route. Regrettably, vandalism remains a major issue affecting mute swans throughout the United Kingdom and one of the aims of Swan Upping is to help children to understand and appreciate the problems faced by wildlife in an attempt to avoid vandalism in the future.

"The children will have the opportunity to learn a little about the history of Swan Upping, the welfare of mute swans and the habitat required for their continued survival. The children will be able to ask questions about Swan Upping and may view swans and cygnets at close quarters. This part of the ceremony is always extremely rewarding and the children benefit enormously from their involvement."

Local schools seeking further information should contact the Swan Marker's office on +44 (0)1628 523030 or email [email protected].

The observation points and times are as follows (all times given are approximate):

Monday 14 July 2008
Sunbury 09.00 - Departure point
Shepperton Lock 10.45
Penton Hook Lock 12.30
Romney Lock 17.30

Tuesday 15 July 2008
Eton Bridge 09.00 - Departure point
Boveney Lock 10.15
Boulters Lock 13.00
Marlow Lock 17.30

Wednesday 16 July 2008
Marlow Bridge 09.00 - Departure point
Hurley Lock 10.30
Hambleden Lock 12.00
Henley Town 13.30
Marsh Lock 16.00
Shiplake Lock 17.00
Sonning Bridge 18.00

Thursday 17 July 2008
Sonning-on-Thames 09.00 - Departure point
Caversham Lock 10.30
Mapledurham Lock 12.30
Goring Lock 17.00
Moulsford 18.00

Friday 18 July 2008
Moulsford 09.00 - Departure point
Benson Lock 10.15
Clifton Hampden Bridge 13.00
Culham Lock 16.15
Abingdon Bridge 17.30

Media arrangements
The press boat will depart at 10.15 hours on Monday 14 July from Shepperton Lock, at 09.00 hours on Tuesday 15 July from Eton Bridge and 09.00 hours on Wednesday 16 July from Marlow Bridge.

Media wishing to reserve a place to board the press boat should contact the Swan Marker's Office on +44 (0)1628 523030 or email [email protected].

Further information
Swan Upping dates from medieval times, when The Crown claimed ownership of all mute swans which were considered an important food source for banquets and feasts. Today The Crown retains the right of ownership of all unmarked mute swans in open water, but The Queen only exercises this right on certain stretches of the River Thames and its surrounding tributaries. This ownership is shared with the Vintners' and Dyers' Livery Companies who were granted rights of ownership by The Crown in the fifteenth century. The swans are counted but are no longer eaten.

The Queen'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. By tradition scarlet uniforms are worn by The Queen's Swan Marker and Swan Uppers, and each boat flies the appropriate flag and pennant.

The cygnets are weighed and measured to obtain estimates of growth rates and the birds are examined for any sign of injury, commonly caused by fishing hook and line. The cygnets are ringed with individual identification numbers by The Queen's Swan Warden, whose role is scientific and non-ceremonial. The Queen's Swan Marker produces an annual report after Swan Upping detailing the number of swans, broods and cygnets counted during the week.

Apart from Swan Upping, The Queen's Swan Marker has other duties. He advises organisations throughout the country about swan welfare and incidents involving swans, he monitors the health of the local swan population and advises fishing and boating organisations how to work with wildlife. The Queen's Swan Marker works closely with swan-rescue organisations and supervises the rescue of sick and injured swans. He also co-ordinates the removal of swans from stretches of the river Thames used for summer rowing regattas.