Swan Upping


During the third week in July, the ancient ceremony of ‘Swan-Upping’ takes place along the Thames in eastern Berkshire, between Windsor and Pangbourne. According to British law and tradition, the Sovereign can claim ownership of any unmarked mute swan in open water in Britain. This right is exercised every year on the River Thames, with ownership of swans along the river shared between the Queen and two medieval-era organisations — the Dyers and the Vintners. It’s an ancient, 800-year-old tradition, steeped in history and quintessentially British. Representatives of the Crown, the Vintners, and the Dyers set sail up the Thames in a flotilla of skiffs, catching swans in a surreal week-long census.

The third week of July is the best time for Swan Upping because the cygnets are still young and the adult swans are moulting, so they’re not in flight. They are also a little more docile than normal – a comforting thought to those who have to check their condition.

Swan Upping
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