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The Abbotsbury Swannery

    Naturevolume 135page1066 (1935) | Download Citation



    HOWEVEB patriotic and air-minded we may be, however much alive to the urgent necessity governing the general policy of the Air Ministry at this particular moment, the proposal to set up an aerial machine-gun practice ground in the very middle of the “Fleet“alongside Chesil Beach in Dorset, was bound to call forth the protests which it has already done in consequence of the near neighbourhood of the famous Abbotsbury Swannery. Not unnaturally, those informed members of the community who are well qualified to realise the very regrettable consequences which are bound to result, have attempted to make their influence felt. One of the most important would be the all too frequent disturbance of the swans on their very localised winter feeding ground. Founded in all probability in 1044 by the monks of the Benedictine Abbey of Abbotsbury, Lord Ilchester has stated recently in The Times (June 18) that the first references to the swannery which he has been able to discover are to be found in the Court Rolls of the Manor, 16, Richard II (A.D. 1393); and there are many others, including disputes about ownership in the time of Queen Elizabeth. The actual number of swans forming this perfectly natural colony of wild birds varies around eight, hundred. It is, therefore, not only historically and biologically of very considerable interest, but also in all probability it is the largest swannery in Europe at the present moment. Associated with it there are other birds and plants. It has been stated in defence of the proposed target practice ground that birds soon get used to aeroplanes and noise. That is no doubt true; but is not the point. The vital objection is the ploughing up of their feeding ground by missiles. If the choice of such a locality is really a matter of urgent necessity, it seems altogether deplorable.

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