Swanning Around!

Exploring England #2

It’s a warm sunny day in late summer and a walking expedition on the Dorset coast beckons. It’s not far to the village of Abbotsbury and there’s also a coastal path, but today we’re visiting Abbotsbury Swannery, one of the largest colonies of mute swans in the world.

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The swannery is located in the calm waters of Fleet lagoon, a long stretch of brackish water protected by Chesil Bank. The waters weren’t always so calm; at the end of the last Ice Age massive waves created the bank, a narrow wall of rocks between Lyme Bay and the coast. The land behind the bank was flooded as sea levels rose, creating the perfect breeding environment for water birds.

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There have been mute swans in the lagoon since the 11th century, when the Benedictine monks of St Peter’s Abbey began farming the birds. In 1543, after the dissolution of the monastery, Sir Giles Strangways bought the land from Henry VIII and the swans have been cared for by his descendants ever since. While the swannery is not a zoo and the swans are free to come and go, the colony is carefully managed. We must purchase tickets at the shop before entering the grounds of the swannery.

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From the entrance it’s a pleasant walk in the summer sun past grass covered fields and curious sheep. A stream flows beside the path and wildflowers bloom on its banks.

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We enter the woodland closer to the coast and find hydrangeas flourishing in the dappled shade.

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Our first sighting of a swan is a thrilling moment. A single white bird stands on the path ahead of us as if guiding the way.

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Another swan with her half grown cygnets accompanies us for a while as she glides on a fast flowing stream.

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As we walk there are more swans,

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but these glimpses do not prepare us for the spectacle waiting at the end of the path – dozens of swans, a sea of white on the sparkling waters of Fleet Lagoon.

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They might be called mute swans, but they are noisy. We’ve arrived at midday in time for a feeding session and the swans are excited. We learn that they receive limited feeding, sick or injured swans are captured and cared for before returning to the lagoon, and cygnets are monitored to ensure they remain healthy.

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Young visitors are invited to help feed the birds who gather close to shore.

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From a raised platform there’s a beautiful view of Fleet Lagoon, Chesil Bank and the swannery.

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But it’s the opportunity to see these magnificent birds up close that we have all come for.

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Abbotsbury Swannery is open every day from March to October, 10 am to 5 pm

See more great walks from around the world at Restless Jo’s Monday Walks.

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47 thoughts on “Swanning Around!

  1. Wonderful photos! I have only seen that large number of swans once. It was in 1968 the day before a big storm hit Sweden. They knew what was going on before we did.
    I wish you a fine Sunday!

      • πŸ˜€I forgot about the time difference. 9 hours compared to Sweden in Melbourne? My doctor told me an amazing story how to utilize this. Swedish doctors working in Australia analyzed X-Ray photos taken in Sweden during nighttime here but daytime in your country

  2. Wow, beautiful, I love the photo of all the swans in particular. I’ve never seen so many all in the one place – and I’ve never heard of this Swannery either. Another place for the list! I’ll have to live to 100 at this rate……

    • I love that photo too. We knew of the swannery because some friends had visited a few years ago. So I was pleased when I realised we were close by. I know what you mean about lists. Ours grows faster than we can go on holidays. ☺

  3. We visited the garden a couple of years ago, but declined to see the swans, though I do have a photo from waaaay away! I like the format of this walk and I really like that last photo – just the one head in a sea of white feathers, very artistic πŸ™‚

    • We did it the other way round as we figured we have our own subtropical gardens at home and no white swans! Thank you for the compliment. I like that photo too, especially the water droplets on the feathers. (Mr ET and I joke about taking “artistic shots”)

    • They were spectacular on the water, especially on such a sunny day. We were surprised to see the cygnets so large and still with their grey down. We learned that they don’t grow their white feathers until their second year.

    • The black swans are very beautiful but not very friendly. Mr ET comes from Ballarat in Victoria and many times we’ve visited and gone to Lake Wendouree where there is a big colony of black swans. They think humans are only on this earth to feed them and if you don’t have anything for them they can become aggressive. We like to look but we don’t get close.

    • Well, that would be me! Thank you for the lovely compliment. I try to use my own photos as much as possible but occasionally I use one Mr ET has taken. Imagine if National Geographic wanted my photos…that would be exciting!

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  6. Those are magnificent. I love each picture, and as the post continued, the pictures got more and more spectacular. You think it can’t get any better, and then it does. I felt like I was on the walk with you. πŸ™‚

  7. How amazing to see so many swans all in one place. I know how exciting it is to see one or two (and cygnets are always an added bonus) to see them in such large numbers would be superb.They are such elegant creatures (but powerful of course, so I am always wary if one comes close to me) aren’t they?

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