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Maidstone Mayor celebrates 400th year of owning the town's swans

With their long necks, bright coloured beaks and white or black feathers, swans are some of the most recognisable animals in the wild. But did you know not all of them are owned by the Queen?

This year Maidstone is celebrating the 400th year of mute swan ownership being handed over to the mayor from the monarch.

Back in 1619 King James I granted this privilege to the mayor along the stretch of the River Medway that flows through the town. Each year the mayor and their Swan Master carry out the tradition known as 'Swan Upping' where boats go up and down the river to survey and tag the swans.

Current mayor, councillor David Naghi said: "It's unique. It gives you a bit of a buzz because being mentioned in the same breath as the Queen is special in itself. To have that connection is fantastic.

"We are celebrating 400 years this year and we're hoping to do something special in Maidstone to mark it."

Maidstone is the only borough in the country where swans belong to the mayor rather than the monarch.

Swan upping, as it is known, was revived in 1975 and since 1981 Bob Tuthill and the Hampstead and Yalding Cruising Club have organised the event.

Leeds Castle's Mark Brattle is Maidstone's 'Swan Master' (8011065)
Leeds Castle's Mark Brattle is Maidstone's 'Swan Master' (8011065)

Leeds Castle's wildlife manager Mark Brattle is one of just two Swan Masters in the country, he said: "Once a year we go on a cruise of the river.

"I go along and we count the amount of swans that we have and then the idea is that we catch some of the cygnets, ring them with the mayor's name and the year.

"That way we can keep a track of the swans and what's happening on the River Medway."

The 400th anniversary will be celebrated on July 8.

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