BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

24 September 2014

BBC Homepage
»BBC Local
Things to do
People & Places
Religion & Ethics
Arts and Culture
BBC Introducing
TV & Radio

Sites near Berkshire


Related BBC Sites


Contact Us

You are in: Berkshire > Outdoors > Thames Travelling > Stage 6
Canada geese and swans gather around the Wokingham Sailing Club building on the banks of the Thames as you leave Reading.
Thames Travelling
Look out for Swans, Canada Geese, Herons and Cormorants. All of them can be spotted on or near the Thames.

The tradition of swan-upping started some 600 years ago, and it's basically the counting up of all the swans living on the Thames.

Centuries ago the swan was considered a culinary delight, but owning swans was a privilige initially restricted to the Crown who then extended ownership to two City Livery companies; The Company of Vintners and the Company of Dyers.

At one time any unauthorised person found guilty of killing a swan could be sentenced to transportation for seven years and even up to 1895 could receive seven years hard labour.

The Swan-upping ceremony developed as the means by which the Crown, the Vintners and the Dyers identified their particular swans.

For centuries the Vintners marked their birds by putting a nick on each side of the beaks, the Dyers putting one nick only, whilst the Crown's birds went unmarked. This practice is no longer continued. Instead the birds are marked by an identifying ring around their legs.

Swan-upping takes place along the Thames during the third week of July, starting on Monday at Sunbury and concluding at Abingdon on Friday.

It is organised by the Royal Swan Keeper, a position that dates from 1295.

Floatillas of boats move up the river looking for families of swans. Once caught, the swan is lifted onto dry land and examined to check its health. Each of the cygnets is marked with identifying tags on its legs. Then they are measured and weighed. Once every statistic has been recorded the family of swans are given a final check-over then released.

During the week they will mark and check between 70 - 90 cygnets and will update records on the numbers and well-being of the swan population as a whole.

For anyone interested in observing the spectacle, details of the swan-upping schedule can be obtained from the Environment Agency.

* info courtesy of

You are in: Berkshire > Outdoors > Thames Travelling > Stage 6
Return to homepage
Email your comments to  [sitename_email]
Print out this page
Return to the top of the page
Return to start of walk
Map of the walk
© Crown copyright. All rights reserved. BBC licence number 100019855, 2004.
Map not reproduced to scale.

Enlarge this map Enlarge map
Print map
Print this page
or ..
Print the entire walk
BBC Berkshire Outdoors
BBC Berkshire Way
Natural History EVENTS
BBC Berkshire galleries - your pictures of the Royal County
Netley Shoreline Walk
Wallingford Wander
BBC Science & Nature
Rest of the web
Forestry Commission
The National Trust
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites
On Science & Nature
Fox illustration, on Science & Nature
More walks through time and amazing wildlife.
Find another walk
Explore wildlife habitats
The TV series:
British Isles, a Natural History
Visit's Natural History section
Get more from your walk,
with the Open University.
bullet point Get active - the Great Snail Hunt
bullet point What does that mean? - a natural history glossary
bullet point Get into nature - the science you need to know
bullet point How do they know that? - explore nature's secrets
bullet point Become a Landscape Detective - Free Leaflets!

BBC Berkshire Website, P.O Box 104.4, Reading, RG4 8FH
| e-mail:

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy