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Wild Swimming in France last summer.

wild swimming France

How I wish England had a more tolerant attitude towards outdoor swimming.

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The Connection reports: Swimming in the Seine could become a reality in the next year as mayor Anne Hidalgo has launched a 43-point plan to clean up the Paris river.

Aiming to make the Seine a focal point if the city wins the 2024 Olympic Games, she wants to “improve the water quality” and open up the Bassin de la Villette for swimmers next year.

Swimming has been banned on the river since 1923 except by special permit and the last major event to be held on the Seine was the Paris Triathlon in 2012. However, that year a competitor died after falling ill in the water and the next planned event, with 3,000 swimmers, was banned by the prefecture. More…

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Languedoc’s best swimming isn’t in the Mediterranean

When people think of the South of France – they usually think of beaches. Sea beaches. But in our opinion, some of the best places to swim in the Languedoc-Roussillon region aren’t by the sea – they’re along the region’s many beautiful rivers and lakes. More…

Wild Swimming France

Wild Swimming France

Click to find out more about any of our top 33 swimming spots

Wild Swimming France

Wild Swimming France

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Safe river swimming at Cesse Bize Minervois

River Swimming Cesse Bize Minervois

River Swimming Cesse Bize Minervois

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Paris 1945

Paris 1945

Swimming in Paris has a connection with both Leicester and the Olympics. Leicester swimmer John/Jack Arthur Jarvis won 108 swimming championships including two golds at the Paris Olympics in 1900. He learned to swim in the canal in Leicester and founded the Leicester Swimming Club. He was one of only 15 swimmers honored at the official opening of America’s Swimming Hall of Fame in 1968.

Discover the history of swimming…

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Bathing on the Seine (La grenouillere)
Bathing on the Seine (La grenouillere) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
 

River races in Paris were once a regular part of life in the capital and Impressionist’s paintings remind us of the hay day of outdoor swimming back when the waters were clean and life was good. Yet things have changed; river pollution has kept both fish and human swimmers out of the Seine for more than 60 years.

Back in the 80s things started to turn around. When he was Mayor of Paris, former President Jacques Chirac vowed to clean up the cities artery and to swim in it once it was restored. Although it is still usually illegal to swim in the river, the fish have secretly returned, rising from just 3 species in 1975 to 33 varieties today. In fact the river is now said to be as clean as it was 150 years ago.

The race was to be split into two categories; a 10km race for the serious swimmer starting at the Josephine Baker floating pool barge, and going past Notre Dame, the Louvre, and the Eiffel tower. The 2.5km swim from the Eiffel Tower and ending at the Parc Citroen. The Paris à la Nage swimming race in the Seine was to take place on Sunday September 2nd.

Read about river swimming at the Paris Olympics 1900.

Some 5,000 wild swimmers were disappointed when the swim in the Seine was canceled amid fears about the water quality and police concerns about the disruption of boat traffic. Despite this wild swimmers from the West Country took to the Trocadero Fountains for an “impromptu water ballet” to the amusement of hundreds of spectators. More…

Discover the history of British Swimming and why wild swimmers in the UK were Hung Out to Dry.

 

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Wild swimming in the Thames will come under official ban on Sunday. The new bylaw has been imposed to dissuade swimmers inspired by comedian David Walliams and his 140 mile, eight day charity swim in the Thames last year. Between Crossness, near the Thames Barrier, and Putney Bridge, wild swimming will be illegal from tomorrow unless written permission is obtained in advance from the Port of London Authority.

Reaction is varied. The London Evening Standard reports former Tory MP Matthew Parris as branded the ban “absolutely pathetic,” whereas Daniel Start author of several books on wild swimming said: “In principle I don’t support banning wild swimming but with the Thames it is sensible, it is a tidal river that is dangerous.”

Without a doubt this is a very busy stretch of river. With tides as high as 17 meters, strong currents and the sometimes polluted water, the Thames is a less than attractive option to most swimmers. Even so the ban highlights a disparity between attitudes in the UK and those aboard where choice when it comes to venue is left to the swimmer.

Interestingly the man who won the first 15 mile swim through London in 1907 was Leicester Olympian John/Jack Jarvis. He brought fame to his hometown by winning Gold at the Paris Olympics in the Seine (1900). Having learned to swim in Leicester’s Grand Union Canal, I’m sure he would be horrified to see, in this Olympic year, the restrictions imposed on river swimmers, not just in the Capital, but also the complete ban on open water swimming in his home town of Leicester.

To see just how much has been lost when it comes to swimming freedom; take a look at the list of river swimming venues open in England just 100 years ago: Look, Listen, Swim: 2012.

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