Published 10 June 2002

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

Swan Upping, the annual census of the swan population on certain stretches of the River Thames, was announced today by David Barber, The Queen's Swan Marker. Swan Upping will start on Monday 15th July from Sunbury-on-Thames and finish in Abingdon, Oxfordshire on Friday 19th July.

The ceremony of Swan Upping dates from the twelfth century and takes place during the third week of July each year. It has always been the duty of the Sovereign's Swan Marker to count the young cygnets each year and to ensure that the swan population is maintained. With the assistance of the Swan Warden, Professor Christopher Perrins of the University of Oxford, the swans are also given a health check.

Announcing the dates for Swan Upping, David Barber said:

"There has been a significant increase in the number of breeding pairs nesting this year, with cygnets hatching earlier than usual. Fortunately the swans have avoided the spring floods that have washed away many nests in previous years.

"Vandalism has once again taken its toll on the swan population as nests have been destroyed and eggs broken. These incidents occur mainly where the swans have nested in unsuitable locations within easy reach of riverside towns.

"Fishing hooks and line are a significant factor in the injuries and deaths of many young cygnets. Discarded fishing tackle poses a severe threat of drowning and ingested hooks and line cause immense suffering which often results in death.

"The dedication and vigilance shown by swan rescue organisations, combined with the support of the public and the work of the Environment Agency, is helping to maintain swan numbers.

"Conservation continues to play a vital role in the ceremony of Swan Upping. It collates important data that reflects the enormous changes in the river's environment over past years, and a greater awareness of methods of conservation has resulted in a higher level of protection for the swans.

"Education will play an important role in Royal Swan Upping this year and several schools will be visiting the banks of the River Thames. This educational programme will give young children an insight into how to protect the welfare of the swans.

"Children from local schools will accompany the Swan Uppers as they carry out the swan census and health checks. They will have the opportunity to learn the history of Swan Upping and to understand the conservational impact of the ceremony today. I hope this will increase their awareness of the value of our wildlife and import a sense of the respect with which it should be treated."

Local schools seeking further information should contact the Swan Marker's office on 01628-523030.

Press Days are Tuesday 16th July and Wednesday 17th July - media should contact the Swan Marker's office to book a place on the boat.

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

Monday 15th July
Sunbury Lock 09.00 - Departure Point
Shepperton Lock 10.45
Penton Hook Lock 12.30
Romney Lock 17.30

TUESDAY 16TH JULY - PRESS DAY
Eton Bridge 09.00 - Departure Point
Boveney Lock 10.15
Boulters Lock 13.30 - press disembark
Marlow Lock 17.45
NB Boarding is 0845hrs for departure at 0900hrs from Eton College Boat House, Brocas Street, Eton, Windsor. The press launch will not return to Windsor and alternative arrangements must be made by each individual. (Return journey 20 mins by car.)

WEDNESDAY 17TH JULY - PRESS DAY
Marlow Bridge 09.15 - Departure Point
Hurley Lock 10.30
Hambleden Lock 12.00
Henley Town 13.30 - press disembark
Marsh Lock 16.30
NB Boarding at 0900hrs for departure at 0915hrs from The Complete Angler Hotel, Marlow Bridge, Marlow . The press launch will not return to Marlow and alternative arrangements must be made by each individual. (Return journey 15 mins by car.)

Thursday 18th July
Sonning-on-Thames 09.00 - Departure Point
Caversham Lock 10.30
Mapledurham Lock 12.30
Goring Lock 17.30

Friday 19th July
Moulsford 09.00 - Departure Point
Benson Lock 10.15
Culham Lock 16.00
Abingdon Bridge 17.15