I noticed that on the Yare Valley Wildlife website (http://yarevalleywildlife.synthasite.com/bird-notes-2012.php)there was mention of some Bewicks and Whooper Swans hanging about by the A47 just outside Yarmouth. Having a fair idea exactly what field this would be from the description I thought I'd try to locate them on the way home from work. In the rush hour, in half light and at 60mph.
And in those conditions I did see some white blobs in the middle of a field as expected. I'm absolutely certain that they were swans, and the certainty ends there. A perfect description of the UTV, the un-tickable view.
As far as the layman is concerned, the Queen owns all the swans in the country. This misconception is perpetuated by two main points. Firstly the layman sees all swans as ‘swans’ and cannot differentiate between Mute, Whooper and Bewick. The second point is that in the past the Monarch did own all the swans, and this has been passed down through the ages as unchanged fact.
So when a colleague mentioned that someone could catch and eat the bird to the left, and another averred that it was the Queens so they couldn’t, I had to correct the laymen and inform them that the Queen only owns the Mute Swans and this was a Whooper Swan so as she didn’t own it, they could eat it without offending any royal sensibilities but on the flipside they might be in contravention of the Wildlife and Countryside Act. Of 1981. That was pretty much the conversation over. However, when accidentally flicking through a supplement of the Telegraph on Sunday I read that the Queen owns 88 Swans. Considering that I thought she owned every Mute Swan in the country, eighty eight birds doesn’t sound like much of a population. For my own edification I decided to find out a bit more.
When I said that the Monarch did own all the birds in the past, I’m not talking about the last couple of hundred years. The crown initially laid rule over the birds in 1482 with the advent of the ‘swan laws’ which was mainly in the business of stopping the common man getting hold of a lovely bit of swan for his tea, as this was the preserve of the wealthy who liked to eat swan and used a little legislation to keep it that way. Which they did very well for a while, assisted by a punitive system that was typically excessive (a year in gaol for a single stolen egg for example).
Over the centuries the want for swan on the dinner table subsided, helped to a certain extent by the relative cheapness of the recently introduced turkey. As this want subsided, so did the application of the law and those that felt the need to enforce their right to own swans and also the want of the common man to have swan on his table. Time moved on, and the history and application of the swan laws passed into history and anecdote.
Today, the claim of the crown over the nations swans has shrunk to such an extent that the Queen only claims as her own a few birds on one stretch of the Thames. Not the estuary end, nor the built up middle bit with the nasty steel walls, just the nice green bit in Surrey really. This could be referred to as the posh bit. It is here that the Queen's Swan Marker continues the tradition of Swan Upping, essentially counting the swans and ringing them once a year. And it is here that the figure of eighty-eight comes from. Next time I correct the layman, I shall do so with a greater degree of accuracy and thus satisfaction.
This years schedule can be found here... http://www.royalswan.co.uk/
And if I've loaded it correctly there should be an interesting pdf to view below this writing.
Some would have you believe that Happisburgh is dying, that the sea has won. The bricks and mortar are finished and that all that lies between a village, it's lighthouse and oblivion is a soft cliff and stormy sea.
This is not the impression I have. Those that remain have a much more pragmatic approach to what continues in just one part of one street at the end of the village. Yes, there are large chunks of the cliff falling away, but there are even larger chunks holding up houses just like yours is, and the residents live with the simple fact that they are simply not likely to fall into the sea any time soon. And surely not within their lifetime. Despite what the council may tell people. So what's the rush to leave?