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Chair’s Welcome

I am delighted as Chair of the Friends to welcome you to our website. Bushy Park and Home Park are two wonderful large green oases in the south west corner of London. Feeling wild, they are natural places with ancient histories, fascinating heritage and superb wildlife. Both are Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) containing rare species. These are places to be enjoyed and conserved. Which is why the Friends exist, campaigning, supporting and protecting the parks, and enhancing visitors’ enjoyment with information, advice and guidance.

We are always pleased to receive feedback. You can contact us by clicking here.

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Thursday Talk: Swan Upping

Thursday Talk: Swan Upping

David Barber, Her Majesty's Swan Marker

by David Barber, 22 January 2009

The Friends were very pleased to welcome David Barber who gave a most interesting, illustrated talk.

David Barber
Her Majesty’s Swan Marker

Click here for the photo album.

David started by talking more generally about swans, their habitat and unfortunate cases of injuries and vandalism. We were shown disturbing photographs of the injuries which can be caused by fish hooks and lines, also a swan which had been shot by an air rifle and one chased by a dog into a barbed wire fence. On a more positive note, the Environment Agency has improved the river banks to enable more reeds to grow and so protect their natural habitat.

Swan Upping dates from the 12th century when swans were a popular dish at banquets. They were eaten up to the 19th century, but now the emphasis is on education and conservation. Today the crown retains the right to ownership of all unmarked mute swans in open water, but the Queen only exercises her ownership on certain stretches of the Thames.

Swan Upping takes place over 5 days in the third week of July when the cygnets are old enough to take out of the water and ring and the adults are in moult and so cannot fly away. Six traditional Thames rowing skiffs start at Sunbury and finish at Abingdon Bridge. As well as the Queen’s Swan Marker and Swan Uppers there are Swan Uppers from the Vintners’ and Dyers’ livery companies who were granted rights of ownership in the 15th century.

When a family of swans is sighted, a cry of ‘All up’ is heard, the boats encircle the swans and they are lifted out of the water. The birds are weighed and measured and examined for any sign of injury (commonly fishing hooks and line). They are ringed with individual numbers by the Queen’s Swan Warden who is Professor of Ornithology at Oxford University. This ring is for record-keeping purposes and does not denote ownership. Data collected is used for conservation purposes.

The Livery companies used to nick the beaks to denote ownership; now another ring with ’Dyers Royalty’ or ‘Vintners Royalty’ and a number is used.
Educational development

The Ceremonial aspects include coloured uniforms – red for the Queen, white shirts and black blazers for the Vintners, navy shirts and blazers for the Dyers and the boats have their own flags and pennants. Several toasts to the Queen and the swans take place at different stages over the 5 days.

David Barber has been very keen to develop the educational side and local schools attend with welcome hospitality from local hotels. There is considerable media attention with film crews from all over the world and good positive publicity.

The Queen’s Swan Marker also has a country-wide role relating to swan welfare. He monitors the health of local swan populations, briefs fishing and boating groups and works closely with swan rescue organisations.

Jane Cliff, February 2009

Why we need more Friends

With more members our voice is stronger when we campaign to protect the Parks, and with more subscription income we can do more to provide information and education about the Parks, their wildlife and their history.

Join us today!

Walks & Talks

Forthcoming event

Thursday, 26th Oct 8:00 pm

The wonders of Fungi – talk by Brian Spooner, former head of Mycology at Kew

Latest report

A perimeter walk of Home Park led by Nicholas Garbutt was enjoyed by over 45 people on 2nd September.Walk in Home Park- 2nd September

Full report...

Information Point

The Information Point next to the Pheasantry Welcome Centre café is where our volunteers help visitors to find out more about the parks and where visitors can purchase souvenirs of your visit to support our work.

Click this panel to visit our Information Point section and also to find out how you can get involved as a volunteer.