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Swan Upping axed for first time in 900 years
THE 900 year-old tradition of Swan Upping has been axed for the first time ever because of flood risk, it has just been announced.
The annual census of the swan population along the River Thames was due to go through Cookham tomorrow, then onto Marlow on Wednesday.
But Buckingham Palace has been informed this afternoon that it is too dangerous for the boats to go out.
The Environment Agency has put out its highest alert for river users because of the continued heavy rain.
The Queen's Royal Swan Marker David Barber said it was devastating news.
He said: “This is my 20th year as swan marker and 25 years doing swanupping, it's never been cancelled in those years.”
“As far as I know it's the first time it's been cancelled and it's very bad news for us but we can't do anything about it.
“The weather is going to be pretty grim all week and it's extremely difficult to catch swans in the wet.”
The cancellation has happened because of fears about safety.
“If we went out and there was a problem it would be irresponsible,” Mr Barber said.
“The water is high, higher than normal, and flowing extremely fast, so it's quite dangerous.”
He spoke to Royal officials to inform them of the decision this afternoon.
Swan numbers have been severely hit in recent times because of a virus sweeping through the population, increased cases of shooting and vandalism and this year nests have been swept away by floods.
Mr Barber said: “Nesting pairs were reported in good numbers earlier this year but in May we had the high floods which really caused havoc and washed lots of nests away, which was devastating for the swan population.
“I've worked on the river since I was 15 and I've never know a summer like this for floods.”