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Black Swans of Dawlish: The History and Influence

The black swans of Dawlish are an important cultural phenomenon. They are all over the town, from logos and business names to a live swan cam. The black swans are there for everyone in Dawlish to enjoy. They have a long and illustrious history going back over 100 years.

What are the Black Swans of Dawlish?

Black swans are large water birds. They’re native to and breed mainly in the southern regions of Australia. However, introduced populations are also found in New Zealand, the UK, Japan, the United States, and mainland China.

Black swans are distinctive birds, with the same long-necked grace of all other swans but deep black plumage. Their flight feathers are white, and their bills are a bright red, usually tipped with a pale orange or white. Their babies, called cygnets, are greyish fuzzy fluffy baby birds that aren’t as beautiful as their parents but eventually grow into their strange, elegant looks.

In Dawlish, the black swans have become a prolific part of the town’s history and culture. They have created a community that’s proud of their black birds. They hang out in the centre of town and have become an important part of Dawlish.

Where Did the Black Swans of Dawlish Come From?

The history of how the black swans came to life in Dawlish is a long-standing one that’s often misinterpreted and misremembered. For example, some say that the black swans have only been in the area since the 1940s, but they were simply re-introduced at that point.

Some say that two black swans were first introduced to the area when they were ordered by a Mr Dart who was a fishmonger on Beach Street from Liverpool.

Others say that the black swans of Dawlish were first introduced to the area by John Nash in 1906. John Nash was from Dawlish but had moved to New Zealand. He was frequently home for visits and knew how unique and interesting the town was. He decided that his hometown needed something equally unique and interesting, so he chose to bring home a line of black swans that would be allowed to create families and propagate.

However, sometime between the two World Wars, the line of swans died out, leaving the Dawlish area without their iconic black swans.

This changed in the late 1940s. Captain CRS Pitman, a game warden in Uganda, presented a new line of black swans to the town as a gift in memory of his parents. The interesting thing about this is that black swans are not native to Africa, so they had to be specially ordered from Tonga Zoo in Sydney, Australia. Pitman’s father, Charles Pitman CBE, had been a Devon County councillor and chairman of the Country Education Committee, so commemorating his parents with black swans was a perfect way to honour their memory and breathe new life into Dawlish.

At the time, Charles and his wife lived at Greystoke in Dawlish. The black swans have lived in the Brook ever since.

Tuck’s Plot and the Brook- A Black Swan Haven

Tuck’s Plot is a central location in Dawlish and features the Brook, a portion of the Dawlish Water that will eventually lead to the sea if you wander on long enough. This area of Dawlish has become a cultural haven, and it’s no wonder that this is also where you are most likely to see the Black swans.

Tuck’s Plot is the site of many of the black swans, so much so that Dawlish Beach Cams and Dawlish town council teamed up to purchase ultra-modern cameras that could easily spot the black swans, as well as other waterfowl on the Brook and in Tuck’s Plot. The Black Swan Cam is a live-streaming camera that lets people watch the black swans of Dawlish any time of day.

Excitingly, the camera was able to pick up high-definition pictures of two of the iconic black swans nesting on the small island in the Brook at Tuck’s Plot. In addition, this camera could see close-up shots of four eggs in the nest and cygnets when they hatched. This is a great way for visitors to Dawlish to be able to keep tabs on their favourite swans long after they leave.

Protecting the Swans in Tuck’s Plot

Because the swans are such a huge part of Dawlish community life and reside in the very heart of Dawlish, the community needs to protect them. To do this, Tuck’s Plot is closed during the spring, when the cygnets are newly born. This is to protect them and their protective parents, who want to keep their babies safe. Unfortunately, this will mean that the gates to Tuck’s Plot will be closed during this time, so visitors will need to see the swans from afar or use the live Black Swan Cams to get their peeks.

The Black Swan Symbol

The black swans have become iconic in Dawlish and an integral part of the history and charm of the town. To commemorate that, many shops, stores, and companies in Dawlish have adopted the black swan as a part of their logo or used it in their name, such as the Swan Inn. Strolling along the Strand, just a little further up from Tuck’s Plot, it’s easy to see many stores and shops with swan-inspired themes, logos, or names.

Black Swan Safety in Dawlish

Black swans are beautiful creatures but also wild animals that can do silly things. Unfortunately, some of these silly things include sleeping on the sides of the road. Because of this, please watch out for them while driving! But, of course, they could be sleeping along the side of the road. They’re not very considerate pedestrians; they’ll walk across the street without looking both ways.

Another important thing to know about black swans in Dawlish is that the fathers are fiercely protective. They will defend their nests and cygnets viciously, so giving them a wide berth is best. Take your pictures from far away. If you see a black swan running or swimming fast towards you, leave the area quickly and calmly.

And most importantly, please remember to keep your dogs on a lead around the lawn, brook and town.

Learn More About the Black Swans of Dawlish

Dawlish is proud to have its community of black swans that live and thrive there. These birds have become a part of the culture of our town. We’re happy to have ways to help support them and help them thrive. Check out our sister parks, Oakcliff Holiday Park, website for more information about how much Dawlish loves its black swans.

If you enjoyed our guide to the Black Swans of Dawlish, you might like our other blogs. Find them here.

5th March 2024


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Lady's Mile Holiday Park
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Belle Kennard
Belle Kennard
22:14 14 Aug 22
Me and family come here basically every year and it never gets old. The lodges are amazing as well as the caravans, and when camping there is lots of entertainment! A lot of days there is live music, and they offer lots of games. There are two pools (indoor and outdoor) which both include water slides. There is also an arcade, restaurants and shops on site. It’s not a far walk from the beach and has beautiful scenery. Staff are great too. 10/10 would definitely recommend!
Andy Young
Andy Young
19:26 31 Jul 22
Loved staying here. Its worth drive around the different pitching areas, we came with a tent, to find a quiet spot. Loved the pools, arcades and bakery in the on site shop. It also has great facilities which are cleaned and well looked after. Def worth the 6 hour drive and will be coming again!
L Bull
L Bull
19:27 27 Jul 22
We had a amazing time, the parks are amazing, the pools are good and included, the pump/skate park is good. Lots to do non stop the shop is also well stocked. We loved the live music and fair up the marquee bar it was perfect way to spend a evening.
Michelle Roebuck
Michelle Roebuck
06:24 09 Jul 22
Just had 2 weeks here in a silver birch lodge and it's been amazing. The view is gorgeous from the decking area. The lodge it self is spotlessly clean and spacious The hot tub is a great bonus. Very quiet around the lodge area. The site it self is the best I've ever stayed on, everywhere is immaculately spotlessly clean. The outside pool is great fun. The water was warm but we did have alot of sunshine 🌞.We will be booking for next year definitely
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Dawlish Warren Life Saving Club

Dawlish Warren Life Saving club put a plea on Facebook on the 5<sup>th</sup> of April this year for funds to help the club after seeing their fundraising efforts suffer due to covid over the past two years, Dawlish Life Saving Club posted that they faced an uncertain future, Lady’s Mile Holiday Park and Oakcliff Holiday park owner Jason Jeffery contacted the club’s secretary and offered to help and secure the club’s future with a rolling 2-year funding agreement.

Dawlish Warren lifesaving club have been training beach lifeguards, first aiders, and children from age 7 at the Warren for over 55 years. During the summer season and busy bank holidays they provide a voluntary lifeguarding service both independently and alongside the RNLI. As well as suppling lifeguard cover for numerous open water swimming events, Triathlons and even music festivals all over the country.

Jason Jeffery owner of both Lady’s Mile Holiday Park and Oakcliff Holiday park said “we appreciate all the hard work the committee and the members do to keep the beach safe for our guests and local residents over the summer. We are proud to sponsor the club who are keeping our community safe.

Club Chairman Gareth Jones said “Our club is thrilled with our new sponsors, their community values reflect our own and have enabled us to invest in vital lifesaving equipment to help train new lifeguards and save lives on our beautiful beach and the local area.”

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