Each year in the third week in July all along the River Thames, the annual ceremony of Swan Upping takes place.

Swan Upping is the annual census of the swan population up and down the River Thames in the counties of Middlesex, Surrey, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Oxfordshire. The purpose is to collect data of the number of mute swans along the river, in addition to assessing the health of the cygnets (young swans) as they are prevalent at this time of year.

This historic ceremony dates from the twelfth century, when the ownership of all mute swans belonged to the Crown. The reason behind the ceremony was to ensure plentiful supplies of swans for royal banquets and feasts, as swans were historically a luxury staple of royal feasts. Of course, this tradition no longer prevails today, and mute swans are a protected species.

The King’s Swan Marker and the accompanying Swan Uppers of the Vintners’ and Dyers’ Livery Companies use six traditional Thames rowing skiffs in their five-day journey upstream to Abingdon. By tradition, scarlet uniforms are worn by The King’s Swan Marker and Swan Uppers, and each boat flies the appropriate flag and pennant.

Swans can live up to 30 years old, so some of the swan uppers may be saying hello to old friends along the river.

Be sure to keep an eye out for this historical event, securing a spot on Windsor and Eton Bridge as the team row past.