Cambridge Rowers, Anarchy and Elitism, the Queen and Mr Asbo the Swan

11/06/2012 10:30 BST | Updated 10/08/2012 10:12 BST

As I walked along the Cambridge towpath today with my rambling club, scores of university rowers whipped past me, practising hard for one of the highlights of their year - the bumps - when more than 1500 rowers are expected to compete for glory.

The bumps race involves a number of boats chasing each other in single file, each boat attempting to catch and "bump" the boat in front without being caught by the boat behind.

The Trinity Boat Club describes the bumps as "one of the most exciting things that it is possible to do as a student at Cambridge".

What could possibly be elitist about it? It's surely just good, clean, high-spirited fun to celebrate the end of their academic year.

I doubt anyone would have commented on it expect for two things - the protest at the Cambridge-Oxford boat race earlier this year on grounds of elitism, and the eviction of Mr Asbo, the swan, from the River Cam in order to "protect rowers".

This has led to a furious response by some and an anarchist group called Class War plan to protest at the bumps next weekend, 16 June, and demand the return of the notorious swan whose wings were clipped by the river authority, the Conservators of the River Cam, and were granted an emergency licence by Natural England to move the swan 60 miles away from the city.

I passed the tranquil spot where Mr Asbo was reported to have attacked rowers, one of whose cygnets was killed, it is thought by an oar. It appeared to be a sheltered area which was screened from rowers to prevent him from being in harm's way, and vice versa. Such was the ferocity of his many reported attacks on River Cam rowers, that the swan mounted a scull and capsized the boat.

While many rowers in Cambridge have welcomed the bird's removal, Class War described the act as "disgraceful" and protestors have written to the Queen in protest at the move.

They have also vowed to hold a Cambridge University "gown burning" in a protest over "elitism" and the removal of the notorious swan. Hundreds were expected at the protest, but now Ian Bone, spokesman for the group, claims up to 4,000 protesters will join him for the rally. Ian Bone said the march was "against elitism of Cambridge University in all its many guises". I can't see those numbers turning up, that this arouses such strong passions.

But it begs the question, who owns the right to use the river; its natural habitat or rowers? We all know that swans can be vicious, particularly when protecting their young, but that is to be expected. What injuries were caused to rowers? Are we talking about the same kind of viciousness of a pit bull terrier?

Now Mr Asbo's wings are now clipped, is there any reason why the swan cannot be returned to the Cam after the bumps, especially as his habitat is screened from the river? And how well has he settled into his new environment?

Come on, let's give Mr Asbo another chance!