Mr Asbo gets restraining order

Carrie Radnofsky 18 July 2011

Cambridge’s most infamous swan is to be temporarily taken off the river this week to protect rowers from attack during the Town Bumps, which will take place from Tuesday to Friday.

The swan, nicknamed Mr Asbo, will be led away from his usual sport on the river along with his mate and three cygnets away from their nest each afternoon before racing begins. Dr. Philippa Noon from the Conservators of the River Cam told The Cambridge Student that he and his family will likely be kept in a Fenn Ditton resident’s garden before being allowed to return to the river each night. The ‘Pied Piper’ in question is Colin Sparkes, the Conservators of the River Cam Foreman, whose motor boat is a source of “great fascination” for Mr Asbo, said Dr Noon. “If he hears or sees one, he will hurry over to have a peck.”

Bill Key, President of the Cambridgeshire Rowing Association, told TCS that Mr Asbo has been a problem for “some three years now” and is particularly aggressive between March and July. Mr Key attributed this to “he and his mate having been continually fed with cat food and pizzas since young by a local barge owner.

“He will take off from 50 metres away or more and dive at me, wrapping his wings round me and thumping me in the back. At 68 I can look after myself but for a young sculler it’s a different matter.”

Gonzalo Garcia, ex-Captain of First and Third Trinity Boat Club, disagreed, however. “He’s not actually a threat, he can’t really hurt anyone. It just becomes a problem when the coxes (or single scullers) panic and get scared, and in a couple of cases capsize because of it.”

Another rower admitted: “I’d miss him if he were taken off the river… I like hearing about other rowers being tortured. It breaks the monotony of boatie banter.”

This April, the swan faced eviction from his territory – a 488m stretch of water between the end of Long Reach and 1st Post Corner near Fenn Ditton – but his mate nested before Conservators of the River Cam’s request to have him moved could be dealt with. This came a year after Cambridge rowers’ failed appeal to the Queen herself to kill Mr Asbo.

A screen currently surrounds the swans’ nest, allowing them to feed from the river but keeping rowers out of view, an innovation that Dr Noon told Cambridge News she hoped would “reduce the likelihood of swan attacks on passing boats.”

She added that Mr Asbo and his family now may not be moved until September.

Carrie Radnofsky