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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 January 2008, 18:23 GMT
Swannery major tourist attraction
Abbotsbury Swannery, Dorset
No visitors are allowed while the restrictions are in place
Abbotsbury Swannery in Dorset is home to over 600 swans and is a popular tourist attraction in the summer.

The swannery was originally established by Benedictine Monks who built a monastery in the village.

The monks regarded swan meat as a delicacy and farmed the swans until St Peter's monastery was destroyed in 1539 during the dissolution.

It is part of wetland around the Fleet lagoon and is protected from the weather of Lyme Bay by Chesil Beach.

It is a reserve for birds and the area is regarded as an internationally important area of wetland.

Chesil Beach is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a site of scientific interest.

On one side of the 29k long, 200 metres wide shingle beach is Lyme Bay, on the other, the Fleet lagoon.

The colony can number over 600 swans with around 150 pairs. It is said that at times there may be up to 1,000 mute swans on the site.

'Beautiful place'

It has been under the stewardship of the Ilchester Estates since 1541, although records of a swannery on the site date back to the middle ages.

Swans have been domesticated on the site for nearly 1,000 years

Mass feeding sessions take place at the swannery during the tourist season and children are sometimes asked to help.

The swannery closed to the public on October 28 last year and is due to reopen on March 15.

Conservative Oliver Letwin, the local MP, expressed his regret at the news.

He told the BBC: "Abbotsbury is really genuinely one of the most beautiful places - well, indeed, in western Europe, and the swannery's been there for a very, very long time - hundreds of years.

"It's a very romantic and very environmentally and aesthetically important place and it's obviously, it's a tragedy this should have happened there. I very, very, very much hope that we'll see the swannery itself be able to continue."

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