Chesil Beach and the Fleet Lagoon
18 miles and 180 billion pebbles
Abbotsbury Swannery is located at the north-west end of the Fleet on a site of approximately 2 acres. Up to 650 wild mute swans, Cygnus olor, are present. The birds are not caged and are truly wild, but choose to come to this area to nest and feed. During the nesting season visitors are able to walk among the nests and get close views of the birds and cygnets.
The site consists of a section of open shoreline surrounded by extensive reedbeds. There is a small stream running through the site and into the Fleet.
As well as the mute swans, there is a large colony of common terns, Sterna hirundo, that nest on a small artificial island just off the Swannery. These birds can often be seen throughout the Fleet.
The reedbeds are used by a number of other species of bird, including reed and sedge warblers, to nest and roost. A number of hides are available to allow visitors to observe the birds. For information on recent bird sightings at the Swannery look at Steve Grove’s blog.
Also on the site is a duck decoy. This currently consists of three pipes and a central pool and is believed to have been built before 1650. The decoy is now a scheduled ancient monument.
At the entrance to the site there is a pole which is believed to mark the height that the water reached during the great storm of 1824 when the Fleet was inundated by the sea.
Abbotsbury Swannery is open to visitors from Spring to Autumn. Visit their website for more information.
Aerial view of the Swannery.
Picture: Channel CoastObservatory
The Swannery is believed to have been started by the Benedictine monks from the nearby Monastery. The first reference to the site is in 1393. After the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539 the site was purchased by the Strangways family. Since then, the site has been in the continuous ownership of the Ilchester Estates and its predecessor organisations.
The Swannery from Chesil Beach
The Swannery from Abbotsbury Hill. The swans can be seen on the left and the reedbeds reaching out to the hide on the headland can be seen on the right. The small island is used by nesting common terns.