What do swans, nifty uniforms, conservation, and Her Majesty the Queen of England have in common? The answer: the annual Swan Upping.

What, you ask, is the Swan Upping?

The annual Swan Upping, held on the third week of July, is a ceremonial census taken every year of the Mute Swan population living on a stretch of the River Thames. The Swan Upping began in the 12th Century when the British Crown claimed rule over all unmarked Mute Swans in open water in the United Kingdom. This made the British Monarch “Seigneur of the Swans”. As time passed, the Crown gave up ownership over the entire swan population. Now, the Crown only claims those living on a stretch of the River Thames and some of its tributaries.

Here’s a video from The Vintner’s Company detailing the history and process of the Swan Upping, as well as those nifty uniforms.

Via: 1

While the tradition itself is wonderful in its theatrics and history, the Swan Upping speaks to what happens when conservation becomes a part of culture.

In modern times, the Swan Upping has become a more scientific survey. It both collects vital data on the swan population and educates people on the effects humans have on their population.

Because of its work, when the swan population began a serious decline in the mid-1980s, regulations and conservation efforts were put into place that have led to a bounce-back in the population.

The Upping is a rare time when conservation is given the pomp and circumstance it deserves. Perhaps we don’t need a cavalcade of blazer bedecked scientists heading off into our streams in little wooden boats. Even so, we should treat the work they do with the same respect.

If we considered all species like the animals important to our national heritage–the swans of England, or the bald eagle of the United States–we could retain some of the species that make this earth such a beautiful and diverse place, and pass on to the next generation a globe with all of its wonders intact.


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  1. The Vintner’s Company. “Introduction to Swan Upping-Swan Life.”YouTube. The Vintner’s Company, 8 Dec. 2013. Web. 27 Aug. 2015. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5MQ_GyEoUiE>.

Liesl Ulrich-Verderber

CEO of Ever Widening Circles, Founder of EWCed

Since 2015, Liesl has been a writer, editor, and is now the CEO at Ever Widening Circles. She is a life-long camera-toting traveler, a global story seeker, and an aspiring—but more often root-tripping—outdoor enthusiast. She can be found on Instagram @Liesl.UV