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My London Reports: Beckenham Park Place’s wild swimming lake was only open a matter of days before it had to close due to safety concerns.

The lake reopened again on Saturday (August 24).

However, there are strict rules now in place for those visiting.

According to the Lewisham Council website visitors will need to do the following:

  • You will need a ticket to come into the lake area. It is open from 7am to 6pm
  • You must be able to swim 25 metres and be over eight years old to use the open water swimming area
  • Paddling for under-8s is not currently available
  • Numbers are limited. If one session fills up, you can book for the next session as follows 7–9am 9.15–11.15am 11.30am–1.30pm 1.45–3.45pm 4–6pm

Entry fee

  • Adult: £3
  • Child: £2
  • Family ticket: £10 (2 adults and 3 children)

Lewisham Council also states the following guidelines must be adhered to or visitors may be asked to leave:

  • Please use the sand area to enter and leave the water. Do not use the jetty – it is for canoes and paddle boards only
  • Do not jump in at any point as there may be hidden dangers underwater
  • All under-16s must be supervised by a responsible adult at all times. You are responsible for their safety and behaviour
  • Children aged 8 to 12 will be required to do a swimming test before using the lake
  • People in the main lake must be able to swim 25 metres
  • All lake users must wear the tow float provided to them at all times whilst in the lake.
  • Swimmers must not enter the boating area
  • Do not use inflatables in the lake at any time
  • Please be aware of other water users
  • Please put all litter in the bins. Let staff know if the bins are full

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The Times reports: Dangerous pollutants in England’s waterways have reached their highest levels since modern testing began, The Times can reveal, with no river in the country now certified as safe for swimmers.

Wild swimming has surged in popularity, with tens of thousands of people bathing in countryside rivers and ponds during the heatwave.

However, an investigation by this newspaper has revealed that rivers in England are not tested enough to be considered safe for swimming. Eighty-six per cent fall short of the EU’s ecological standard — the minimum threshold for a healthy waterway — up from 75 per cent a decade ago.

In addition, half of all stretches of river monitored by the Environment Agency exceeded permitted limits of at least one hazardous pollutant last year, including toxic heavy metals and pesticides.

Despite serious pollution incidents frequently exceeding the limits, prosecutions by the agency against the regional monopolies that run Britain’s sewage systems have declined — to three last year from thirty in 2014.

River Swimming Water Quality

Hundreds of wild-swimming clubs have formed across the country in the past two years, according to the Outdoor Swimming Society, whose membership has climbed to more than 70,000 from only a couple of hundred a decade ago.

Most people who enjoyed waterside beauty spots last week will have been unaware of how Britain’s ageing sewage system is being overwhelmed, placing wildlife and people at risk.

The number of water quality tests taken by the agency for all pollutants fell to 1.3 million last year from nearly five million in 2000. The agency says that monitoring has become “more targeted, risk-based and efficient”, peaking in 2013 after “extensive water quality investigations required for the first cycle of the [EU] water framework directive”. Experts say, however, that monitoring is deteriorating as budgets and staffing levels fall.

The agency said: “Water quality is now better than at any time since the Industrial Revolution, largely due to the £25 billion of investment that the Environment Agency has required water companies to make.

“It is wrong to claim the agency’s budget and staffing levels are dramatically impacting on our ability to monitor water quality. We are the largest environmental protection agency in Europe, with a budget of over £1 billion. Numbers of operational staff have increased by 10 per cent since 2016.”

The agency also said that some recent serious pollution incidents had been caused by extreme weather. Read the full story…

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Mail Online reports: A wild swimming venue has closed four days after a £6.8million relaunch because ‘snowflake’ parents complained the 219-year-old lake is not safe for their children.

  • Beckenham Place Park was swamped with visitors after a £6.8million relaunch
  • Ambulance had to be called on Monday after a child was rescued from the water
  • Lewisham Council said the number of visitors at the lake exceeded forecasts
  • Parents have complained claiming the venue did not have enough lifeguards 

They are erecting temporary fencing around the lake, introducing tickets for anyone visiting the lake area and making sure lifeguards are on duty whenever the water is open to swimmers.

It follows a slew of complaints from parents who said the venue didn’t have enough lifeguards, wasn’t properly signposted and got too deep too quickly.

Even though the definition of wild swimming is that it isn’t subject to the usual safety precautions.

One father-of-two said: ‘If you go to a local leisure centre, children aren’t allowed in the water unsupervised.

‘You hear stories in the summer about children and even young men who have drowned.

‘Who’s going to take responsibility when there’s another little coffin led out of there?’

Comment: In this era of learned helplessness, it’s easy to forget that we are an Island nation. Should we fence off the sea to protect hapless bathers? Or should we take responsibility for our actions and watch over our offspring?

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Leicestershire Live reports: The beach and aqua park at Rutland Water will be closed this weekend due to an outbreak of deadly blue-green algae.

It follows routine tests carried out by Anglian Water which revealed increased levels of the bacteria, which is dangerous for dogs in particular, in parts of the reservoir.

As a result, the water company has made the decision to restrict some activities this weekend as a precaution.

The rest of the park including angling, mini golf, bike hire, and all craft-based water sports will still be open as usual – but all swimming activity in the water has been suspended for the next few days while the algae levels are monitored further.

Jake Williams, head of parks and conservation at Anglian Water said: “Algal blooms are a natural phenomenon, occurring in large bodies of water like reservoirs and rivers when the weather conditions are very warm and still – as we have seen over the last few weeks.

“It is, by its very nature, difficult to prevent and control.

“We are sorry for any disappointment caused to visitors who will no doubt have been looking forward to their visit to the Aqua Park and our beach this weekend however, customer safety must come first. Sailing and craft-based water sports will continue as usual and all other park activities remain open.”

He added: “Please remember that dogs are not allowed in the water at the reservoir at any time of the year. Blue green algae can be toxic to dogs, so please take responsibility for their safety.

“We’ll be monitoring the algae levels closely, so we can get things back up and running as soon as possible.”

Customers who have made bookings for this weekend will be refunded.

Cotswold Water Park Childrens Bathing Beach

Cotswold Water Park

Regarding the managment of algae in Lakes:

“There are two concerns that open water-swimming presents to all, however careful they may be: blue/green algae and Weil’s disease. The Environment Agency has come to the rescue regarding the algae. They recommend that small quantities of loosely packed barley straw be submerged just below the water’s surface in lakes, rivers and ponds. As the straw begins to rot, it releases chemicals that inhibit algal growth. At Henleaze, I noticed a number of stockings stuffed with straw floating near the surface. This simple solution is remarkably effective, inexpensive and easy to apply. The straw remains effective for six months, so only needs to be replaced in the spring and autumn.” Hung Out to Dry Swimming and British Culture Page 147. A similar preventative approach is used at the Children’s Bathing Beach at Cotswold Water Park.

 

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ITV News reports: Henleaze Swimming Club celebrates its centenary this weekend.

The club – the only one of its type in the country – was well-ahead of its time in gender equality and in the philosophy of physical mental wellness.

The club has more members than ever – in fact there’s a three year wait to join.

But the club’s fortunes have been mixed over the decades, as Rob Murphy reports…

The flooded former limestone quarry in north Bristol had been used unofficially for swimming for 15 years.

But, when two teenage boys drowned – followed by a rise in the popularity of wild swimming – the need for safety on the site helped inspire the official formation of Henleaze Swimming Club in 1919.

It was established at the end of the First World War, some of its earliest swimmers were soldiers convalescing at nearby Southmead Hospital.

The club was progressive, allowing women to be members from its infancy.

For decades gangs of children from the nearby Southmead district would break in at night, illicitly fishing, boating and swimming.

They had their own currency, some boys would catch frogs to swap for catapults or inner tubes. Eventually a large gate was put around the site.

The 1960s and 70s were darker days, where the club struggled financially. At one point it had just a few hundred members.

Henleaze Lake Summer 1989

But another surge in an interest in wild swimming helped surge its renaissance in the late 1980s and it has grown to have nearly two and a half thousand members. There is a three-year wait for full membership.

These days members can enjoy early-morning Friday swims.

And there is a 200-strong ‘Winter Dippers’ club where people swim in icy waters – wearing just swimsuits and caps.

Discover more about the clubs history: Hung Out to Dry Swimming and British Culture pages 36-7 & 145-8

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Sports Management reports: People see swimming as lacking relevance to their lives, and lacking visibility in comparison to other sports. These are barriers that the sport is working to overcome, according to Swim England CEO Jane Nickerson.

Asked what the major challenges affecting participation are, and how these are being tackled, she said: “We undertook research into the key challenges. Firstly, it’s a lack of confidence in swimming ability. In order to combat this, we’re utilising a significant amount of resources to ensure all 11-year-old children leave school able to swim 25m, are competent in multiple strokes and can perform a safe self-rescue.

“Secondly, swimming is seen as lacking relevance to people’s lives. We’re working to overcome this barrier by showing people the benefits of swimming and how it can fit into their busy lives, and by working with partners to ensure programmes are in place that will attract different audiences.

“Swimming is a ‘hidden sport’, not as visible as football, cycling and running, for example. We have worked with partners to increase the sport’s visibility, and various media campaigns have supported this work. The #LoveSwimming campaign, supported by 12 industry partners, promotes swimming and the specific benefits of being active in water.”

Discover how and why swimmers were chased out of open water and hidden from public view.

To read the full interview, see Issue 2 2019 of Sports Management here

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News Shopper reports: Beckenham Place Park’s new wild swimming lake will be open to the public in a matter of weeks, ready for a launch event on July 20.

The much-anticipated lake forms part of a £4.9 million project to regenerate the park – which is the largest in the borough – funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

It includes a new wet woodland, play areas, BMX track, skate park, public toilets, as well as a cafe, visitor hub and education centre in the Homestead.

Lewisham Council also contributed nearly £2 million to the project, which includes a new bridge over the Ravensbourne River.

Cllr Sophie McGeevor, cabinet member for parks and recreation, said the park “looked amazing” and hoped the new lake and play areas would encourage children and their families to live more active lifestyles.

“We have just got the latest health figures for Lewisham and 38 per cent of year six pupils are overweight or obese,” she said.

“It is really important to have activities to get kids outside. There has [already] been a lot of focus on sugar and healthy eating.”

Swimmers will have to book online and pay electronically when they turn up, she said.

But there will be a free section of the lake for shallow paddling.

The lake is expected to have lifeguards over the summer but will be open all year round.

Water quality will be tested every week with the lake filled from a natural borehole.

The lake is around 285 metres long by 48 metres wide and is 3.5 metres at its deepest level.

But the project has not been without controversy, with a row breaking out in 2016 over the removal of the park’s golf course – the last public golf course in London.

A petition to keep the golf course garnered 7000 signatures.

Cllr McGeevor encouraged residents to book online for the launch event on July 20 when the link becomes available on Lewisham Council’s website over the next few days.

The full charging details have not yet been announced.