Camberley & District Probus Club

Swan Upping, 14 July 2014

The initial stage of the day went well and the Bells Of Ouzley coped well with 40+ people for lunch, in the relatively short time available. Then we boarded our boat at Runnymede, motored downstream and all was quiet until the Queens Swan Marker (that’s David Barber) and the Swan Uppers of the Worshipful Companies of the Vintners and Dyers finished their extended liquid lunch and resumed the swan upping.   Swan Upping is the traditional process of marking the Queens Property (the Swans living on certain parts of the Thames from Runnymede to Oxford) to discourage the peasants from catching and eating them.  The Swan Uppers, in traditional rowed wooden skiffs which is less distressing to the swans than metal boats and engines, spot those swan pairs with cygnets, encircle and corral the swans and cygnets. Following capture, the swans are kept at bay whilst cygnets are measured, weighed and marked and then all the family are returned to the water.

We were very privileged to witness this unique 12th century tradition, being a very colourful, scarlet—costumed, annual event, and we were the only public boat following the flotilla – a fantastic display of colourful flags and uniforms of the Royal, Vintners and Weavers skiffs and crews. Our double-decker boat provided us with excellent close views of the traditional way of handling the dangerous swans and quieting them. Our Captain skilfully manoeuvred our boat to not only follow the flotilla, but also join them close-up in the locks going upstream, and even got us ahead of the game, such that we had close-ups of the players as they overtook us, in search of cygnets. The sun was out for most of our trip, so what a wonderful combination of traditional Pageantry, Colours and Action all reflected in the slow-moving the sun. All we missed was the Queens presence – but by the time we got to Windsor, she was probably safe inside the castle, taking afternoon tea.

The Daily Telegraph thought it was excellent too, and a report of the action appeared in Tuesdays paper, with very similar photos to those which we ourselves had taken and it was also featured on the TV News in the evening.

A very unique, enjoyable and successful outing, with plenty of colourful photos to show grandchildren of ‘’the day when we chased the Swans ’

Well organised by John Clark

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