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As the lock-down continues to restrict holiday options, the English, looking to escape the sultry weather are advised to swim either in the sea, river or lake as swimming pools and Lidos remain out of bounds.

Thousands of would be wild swimmers have swamped popular inland destinations and beaches. To ease congestion the Outdoor Swimming Society have taken down their map of wild swimming locations. Councils are considering the repercussions of hosting popular swimming spots. But how do attitudes here compare with those abroad?

Dutch News reports: No summer holiday? Councillors propose ‘wild swimming’ in the river.

With long summer months ahead and limited possibilities of foreign holidays, councillors in Amsterdam have proposed designating official ‘wild swimming’ points along the Amstel river. Jan-Bert Vroege, a D66 councillor and local party water spokesman told DutchNews.nl that the city needs to provide and advertise more official safe spots for children and adults to swim in natural water, to provide a vital, open leisure facility while maintaining social distancing. He has made a proposal to create the first official swimming spots on the Amstel river, in order to ensure that swimming there is safe and there are more recreational opportunities for Amsterdammers rich and poor who are stuck in the city. ‘The water in Amsterdam’s channels has got a lot cleaner in recent years,’ he told DutchNews.nl. ‘Before, it was really dangerous to swim in the canals and in the Amstel but nowadays the water quality is a lot better. People swim at a lot of places that aren’t officially designated and some get very busy. People need recreation spots and the 1.5m distancing rules will still apply.’ ‘So my suggestion is to make far more places for swimming and communicate this so that far more people can enjoy the water and weather, at a walking or cycling distance from the city, and not all squashed together, especially if we have to stay here this summer and can’t all go on holiday.’ More…

After weeks of swimming restrictions the government have released wild swimmers from captivity. The Telegraph reports: The relaxation of exercise regulations means water sports like rowing, canoeing, sailing, angling and lake or river swimming can resume from May 13.

How that works in practice remains to be seen. Seas, rivers and lakes will likely be available instantly. However, public or privately-run open-water facilities are likely to take longer to put measures in place that ensure social-distancing regulations are adhered to at all times.

A swimmer enjoying a dip in the River Wye in July ALAMY

The Times reports:

Water companies are polluting some of Britain’s most picturesque rivers, from the Windrush in the Cotswolds to the Aire in Yorkshire, without facing a penalty for the vast majority of offences.

Of 1,863 unlawful pollution incidents by water companies in rivers in England last year, 1,423 were registered as having no further action taken or no action recorded. There are 36 active investigations, but not one prosecution, for 2018.

Water UK, the trade association for the big water companies, said: “Water quality in our rivers is now better than at any time since the start of the Industrial Revolution, and there has been a big drop in the number of serious pollution incidents in recent years, down from over 130 in 2005 to 56 in 2018. But we are passionate about protecting and improving our environment, which is why water companies plan to reduce serious pollution incidents by 90% by 2025.”

Sian Griffiths writes: After years of front-crawling through any water available, I now swim breaststroke in rivers, keeping my head up stiffly, after suffering from a succession of ear and eye infections. I plaster up small cuts to keep out germ-filled liquid and try to shower quickly to avoid strange rashes.

The pleasures, however, still far outweigh the risks. Read more…

By Eleanor Doughty of I News: How clean is your local river? In Scotland, less than half of rivers are in good condition – and according to the Environment Agency, just 14 per cent of English rivers are in good health.

An investigation in August found that no English river can be certified as safe for wild swimming, with 86 per cent falling short of the EU’s ecological standard.

A number of factors affect whether a river is in good or bad health, explains Simon Evans, chief executive of the Wye and Usk Foundation. “The chemical parameters – does it have too much phosphate in it? Is it too warm, does it have enough oxygen in it?” Then there’s the biology – “does it have the right plant, fish and invertebrates communities in it?”.

“If it ticks all of those boxes then it is defined as being in good health. If one of those is wrong, then it’s not in good health. It’s one out, all out.”

Rewiggling rivers

When it comes to a river’s relationship with the land around it, the shape also matters. In Cumbria, fell farmer James Rebanks has embarked on a “river rewiggling” project for a portion of the Eden that runs across his land and was straightened in the 1920s. That was to increase draining speed, but making the river meander again has had benefits.

“Our land isn’t flooding as badly,” says Rebanks, author of The Shepherd’s Life: A Tale of the Lake District. “By widening the channel, you can have twice as much rain.” He adds: “What I would have thought of 10 years ago as a project spoiling my land is the opposite.”

Read more…

Cheshire Live reports: Cheshire Wildlife Trust has issued a public warning that risks are now posed to human health and they have also recorded a significant drop in levels of wildlife around the lake.

The mere is a popular bathing spot, but the algal blooms during summer 2019 led to the tragic death of a dog which swam in the water.

As a part of the efforts to help nature to recover at Hatch Mere and to keep people safe, a decision has… been made to no longer allow access to the lake for swimmers and bathers.

Comment

Similar problems with algae occur across Europe. However the problem can be successfully managed as for example at the Henleaze Swimming Lake in Bristol. See; Hung Out to dry Swimming and British Culture page 145-8 and at Cotswold Water Park, see page 148-9 for details.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

ITV News reports: “New research has shown that swimming benefits our mental health as well as our physical health. Swim England are calling for more investment in the sport in order to boost mental wellbeing across the country.” Video

Swim England suggest that GP’s should prescribed swimming which saves the NHS some 350 million pounds a year. The exercise and social side of swimming benefits the two million children that swim regularly along with people suffering from dementia, depression, diabetes, repertory illnesses and certain cancers.

Olympic swimmer Steve Parry suggests swimming makes us happier, healthier and fitter. Swimming flips the switch that makes you more alive!

Discover why a nation of regular outdoor swimmers found themselves chased out of open water, rounded up and confined to indoor swimming pools.

Photo by Oliver Sjöström on Pexels.com

The Telegraph reports: British beaches, bays and lakes have achieved record levels of cleanliness amid a surge in the popularity of wild swimming.

Of the 420 places where you can take an outdoor dip in England, 300 were ranked as having ‘excellent’ water quality, according to an annual report by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

This is the best rating the country has received since the records system began in 2015.

The impressive ranking comes after recent figures revealed that the number of people regularly swimming in wild waters increased from 266,500 to 490,660 between 2016 and 2018.

Defra’s report highlights that almost all swimming spots achieved at least the minimum standards for clean water, with 71.4 per cent achieving the ‘excellent’ standard (compared with 63.6 per cent in 2015) and 21.9 per cent categorised as ‘good’.

Thrill of the chill

Bude tidal pool at Summerleaze beach, north Cornwall. Photograph: Getty Images

The Guardian reports: From an icy dip in Snowdonia to a plunge into the Atlantic in Cornwall, here is where to go if you are in the mood for an invigorating, cold-water swim – bobble hats are recommended.

Bude tidal pool, Cornwall

The rough waves and strong tides of the Atlantic can be daunting for even the strongest swimmer. This pool – part natural, part carved into the rock – offers a safer place to enjoy the chilly Cornish seas. Created in the 1930s to provide a safe pool for the people of Bude, it is supervised by lifeguards during working hours in the summer but not out of season. Friends of Bude Sea Pool, the charity that runs it, advises avoiding high tide and swimming at low tide. Head to Life’s a Beach cafe for a warming cuppa afterwards.
budeseapool.org

Discover nine more…

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…