Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Swan Upping at Hambleden - 16th July

Spotted this lovely flower decked Great Western Train when Jimmy and I went to collect June’s morning paper. We soon set off and gently motored down the Regatta Straight, just over a mile long and at the down stream end is Temple Island. The island includes an elegant ornamental temple (a folly) designed by the 18th century English architect James Wyatt and constructed in 1771. It was designed as a fishing lodge for Fawley Court, a nearby historic house that Wyatt also remodelled in the 1770s on the commission of its owner,Sambrooke Freeman. In the 19th century, the island's ownership passed, with Fawley Court, from the Freeman family to the Mackenzie family. In 1952, upon the death of Roderick Mackenzie, Henley Royal Regatta asked his daughter Margaret for 'first refusal' should she ever decide to sell the island. It is not clear whether an understanding was reached. By the early 1980s, the advent of corporate entertaining greatly increased the potential value of the island. In 1983 the Stewards of the Regatta again began making overtures to Margaret Mackenzie but in 1986 the island was placed on the open market.

Supported by a gift of £515,000 from Alan Burrough (a Steward of the Regatta) and his wife Rosie, in December 1987 the Regatta was able to purchase a 999 year lease of the island and the temple. Following the purchase, the Stewards of the Regatta undertook restoration works to the island and the temple.

1 Henley

We moored up just past the Temple and walked to the Hambleden Lock and across the very long weir to the main road.We then followed the footpath across the fields to the lovely village of Hambleden.

1a Habledon walk

The village has featured in several films among which are Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Witches, The Legacy, Dance with a Stranger, The Avengers, 101 Dalmatians.

The Elizabethan manor house opposite the church,was until recently the home of Maria Carmela Viscountess Hambleden, and was built in 1603 of flint and brick for Emanuel 11th Baron Scrope who became Earl of Sunderland. Charles I stayed there overnight in 1646 while fleeing from Oxford. The Manor House is also the former home of Lord Cardigan who led the ill-fated charge of the Light Brigade.

Hambleden a quintessential English village was sold to a polo-playing friend of Prince Charles for a reputed £38 million. Mr Schwarzenbach, worth an estimated £850 million, agreed a private sale of the estate, previously owned by Henry Smith, heir to the WH Smith fortune. The deal is thought to have included the charming brick and flint cottages - with sitting tenants -and unspoilt rolling countryside on the edge of the Chilterns with extensive mature woodlands, a farm and a highly-prized shoot. The Estate, comprises 44 houses and cottages, a pub, village stores and 1,600 acres.  Urs Schwarzenbach is a Swiss financier and one of the world's richest men.

2 Hambleden

We returned to Hambleden Lock just in time to see the Swan Upping party arrive. There was a professional photographer and video man on the lock and we chatted to him about his Quadrocopter which he used to film the arrival and actions of the Swan Uppers.

3 Quadro copter

Luckily for us there was a family of swans just in front of the lock and so we were able to watch their catching, weighing, ringing and checking and treatment for injuries being carried out. It looked worse than it was as the swans were  quickly isolated and secured and immediately calmed down.

3 Swan catch

5 swan weighing

Swan Upping is the annual census of the swan population on the River Thames. This year’s Swan Upping started on Monday 14th July departing from Sunbury, and will end at Abingdon, Oxfordshire on Friday 18th July.
The spring time floods resulted in the River Thames reaching its highest level in many years and the sheer volume and speed of its flow had caused a delay in the nesting season for many mute swans. Fortunately, water levels have now receded and the strength of the river’s current has reduced which lowers the risk of vulnerable cygnets being separated from their parents and washed over weirs. There have been reports of many successful breeding pairs with larger broods than normal, which is extremely positive news after several years of decreasing cygnet numbers. However, these very young cygnets are extremely vulnerable to natural predators and the resulting brood numbers may be smaller than anticipated. Vandalism remains a major cause of death and injury in the mute swan population with shootings and dog attacks increasing in frequency. Fishing tackle also poses a potentially fatal threat to young cygnets and adult birds and can result in great distress and suffering. 6 Atlantic and boats

There was a fleet of boats following the procession including the Steam Boat Alaska which was built in Bourne End in 1883 and has been restored to a superb condition.

We returned to our boats and were able to watch the fleet sail passed on their way to Henley.

7 fleet move on to Henley

We spotted this old Riley Elf in Hambleden and whilst having afternoon tea on the bank this Paraglider decided to take off right behind June. He later came back into the field, almost landed and took off again. Jimmy was not impressed by all of todays action and decided it too hot for anything other than a rest in  the coolest place he could find.

8 misc

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