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Bedfordshire on Sunday reports: Water safety signs erected at Bedford’s Great Ouse after three river deaths in two weeks.

MORE water safety signage have been erected following a series of river-deaths over the past month.

In recent weeks, three people have died in open water within Bedford Borough, including 39-year-old Zibigniew Lasocki who was pulled from the river on July 18.

Over the following two weeks officers pulled two more men from the river, the first on July 23 – in which the man was pulled from the river alive but later died in hospital – and the second on the morning of July 31

In light of the these tragic deaths, Bedford Borough Council, Bedfordshire Police and Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue are working together to ensure messages get out to the public on water safety.

Steven Allen, Homes, Roads & Leisure Safety Manager at Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue, said: “Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service urge the public to avoid swimming in open water for leisure and entering open water to help someone else thought to be in trouble. Cold water, strong currents and submerged hazards can quickly overwhelm the strongest of swimmers.

“The best way to help someone else in trouble is to immediately notify emergency services using 999, keep the person under observation and confirm their location to assist with rescue. Lifebelts or other flotation devices, where available, can be thrown to support a person in trouble until help arrives.” More…

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Having spent a fortnight touring France, Germany, Austria and Switzerland I am left with many questions about the disparity between European and British swimming culture. From my perspective as a swimmer, and as Brexit draws closer, I wonder if we were ever really part of Europe at all. Switzerland is bordered, and very much influenced by its neighbours. When it comes to swimming there is no need for an ‘Outdoor Swimming Society’ or a ‘Wild Swimming’ guide, because in every river and lake where swimming is possible, hot weather draws swimmers to the water in droves. Local authorities provide a huge number of bathing beaches, lakeside lidos, diving boards, changing rooms, BBQ facilities and even firewood with an axe to chop it up. But lifeguards are typically absent, with a swim, jump, or dive at ‘your own risk’ notice taking their place.

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In England, changing attitudes and perceived concerns have forced swimmers out of most rivers and lakes. The rules by which we live make us cautious in the extreme. Designated bathing areas at the seaside give us a sense of security. Lifeguards are seen as essential. We are constantly warned of the dangers of deep water and convinced that ‘cold water shock’ makes the risk of outdoor swimming seem to those unacquainted with its pleasures, foolhardy at best.

Basel River Swimming

Soon after landing at Basel airport my wife and I were drifting down the Rhine. The river police have earmarked specific bathing places to separate swimmers in the city from shipping. Even so, you have to navigate your way around cross-river ferries, bridge pillars and marker buoys. It’s a little like playing a slow motion game of ‘Space Invaders’, only in this version you have to avoid rather than intercept approaching targets. Swimmers and their dry bags line the riverbank; boys jump in and delight as they are swept along in the swift current. With thousands swimming every day in the cool deep fast flowing water there must be accidents surely? Surprisingly, Switzerland which encourages swimming at every opportunity, shares a similar safety record to that of the over cautious English, who feel duty bound to keep swimmers out of open water to reduce the risk of drowning and any chance of litigation. Yet if our drowning statistics are just the same as Switzerland’s, could it be that with a little education, open water swimming could be opened up in England, just as it is has always been in the rest of Europe?

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The same story unfolds wherever I travel. Take for example the Strandbad in Hard, Austria. Attracting 2,300 swimmers on a hot day, there are pontoons and springboards enticing huge numbers into the greenish waters of a huge lake. The entrance fee includes the use of lockers and changing rooms, and a beautiful chrome edged open air pool with flumes and excited children everywhere. But look for a lifeguard and you will be disappointed. In Austria the dolphin like children sport slender physiques and deep suntans in settings that echo Britain in the 1950’s. Can you imagine a paid attraction in the UK drawing such numbers with the focus on keeping the site clean and the café well staffed rather than on providing lifeguards? For Austrians the school holidays are spent by the river or lake, and swimming even for the very young is a happy and fulfilling way of life. Europe is in itself an outdoor swimming society; swimmers feel at one with the countryside, they enjoy being outdoors; cycling and swimming whenever possible. Could it be that after all these years as part of Europe we have simply not thought to look at the lessons that could be learned from those who swim, swim, swim?

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For how long will English outdoor swimmers be faced with the inevitable reaction to their activities; “They must need help, call 999”? 

Education is of cause the key, but it is not just potential swimmers that need educating, landowners and local authorities also have a lot to learn. Certainly much needs to be done if the swimming holes of the past are to be resurrected today. What I learned from my holiday is that swimming in deep cold water does not lead to certain death, but rather to a very happy life!

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Switzerland Cities: Bern, Schwellenmaetteli

The Local ch reports: Bern residents know there’s nothing better than a swim in the river Aare on a hot summer’s day.

Jumping in upriver and floating down the fast-flowing water into Bern is a popular pastime in the city.

Some even use the turquoise river as a means of commuting to work, drifting around the Swiss capital with a change of clothes in a dry bag.

The Aare flows in a loop around the base of the city, with the town sitting up above, so residents have to walk down from the roads and bridges above to access the riverside.

Now one Bern-based organization wants to make it even easier to go for a dip – and increase the fun factor at the same time.

Grassroots organization Alternative Linke (AL) has proposed to the Bern city authorities that slides be installed at various places in the city to offer a fast and fun way to access the river below, reported 20 Minuten on Thursday.

The public chutes could be installed in the Lorraine and Bundesrain districts, said Markus Flück, who came up with the idea.

The slides “combine usefulness with pleasure,” he told the paper.

“We are aware that this is a very imaginative idea but also one that is very realizable,” he added.

AI submitted the idea to the authorities in early summer, said the paper.

The organization’s plan also suggests installing lifts on several bridges in the city to allow people to get back up to the city centre again.

Discover wild swimming in Switzerland

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The Guardian reports:

  • Thunderstorm eight miles upstream caused lethal flooding of canyon
  • Fire chief: ‘They had no warning. They heard a roar and it was on top of them’

An Arizona sheriff’s office said on Sunday at least nine people had died in flash flooding and others were missing after a wall of water swept through a popular swimming hole inside Tonto National Forest.

Gila County sheriff J Adam Shepherd said crews were still searching the missing people. Earlier, Water Wheel fire and medical district fire chief Ron Sattelmaier fire chief said at least four people were dead and about a dozen more missing.

Sattelmaier said more than a hundred people were in the Cold Springs swimming hole on Saturday afternoon when a severe thunderstorm pounded down on a nearby remote area that had been burned over by a recent wildfire.

“If it’s an intense burn, it creates a glaze on the surface that just repels water,” said Darren McCollum, a meteorologist.

A woman who was hiking to the swimming hole said she saw people clinging to trees after the water rushed down a normally calm creek near the trail. More…

 

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swim-safe

Belfast Live reports: A programme which aims to teach kids how to stay safe in open water is hosting free swimming lessons in Northern Ireland this summer.

Swim Safe, is coming to NI for the first time this summer to host free hour-long sessions for 7–14 year olds run by qualified swimming teachers and RNLI beach lifeguards, supported by a team of trained volunteers.

The sessions are designed to be practical, interactive, educational and fun for children who can swim at least 25 metres.

Every child that participates will receive 60 minutes of tuition, with the time split between land-based safety with a lifeguard and in-water tuition with a swimming teacher.

Wetsuits, swimming hats and a free goody bag with T-shirt are all provided.

RNLI Lifeguard Supervisor Jenny Thompson said: “Many children love swimming outdoors – but swimming in the sea, rivers and lakes is different to swimming in a pool and can often be much more challenging.

“The Swim Safe programme gives children the opportunity to learn about keeping safe when swimming outdoors and knowing what to do if they get into trouble.”

Visit the SwimSafe website to book your place and for more information.

Chris Ayriss comments: What a contrast this piratical program is to the warnings broadcast in 2014 “Don’t go in!”

 

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The Telegraph reports: The National Trust is to open its first public swimming pool after gardeners restoring a spectacular Victorian property stumbled across a long forgotten lido.

Groundsmen working at Standen House in West Sussex  – the former home of celebrated horticulturist Margaret Beale – discovered the neglected pond when they nearly fell into it while clearing undergrowth.

The lido was built in the 1890s for the wealthy Beale family and their seven children to enjoy a dip in the heart of their 12 acre garden. But it was long forgotten after being hidden beneath decades of growth. It would be the first time a man-made pool had been opened to the public at one of its properties.

Letters and diary entries by Mrs Beale, housed at Standen, reveal how the children spent happy summer in the pool. They would compete for the right to swim in the deep end by testing how long they could remain dunked underwater, and would dare one another to jump in rather than descend the steps. Read more…

 

 

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The Eastern Daily Press reports: A fight is underway to make sure swimming remains a priority in education, as pool upkeep and transport costs stretch schools’ already squeezed budgets.

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Spiralling repair and maintenance costs have forced many schools to close their pools, while transporting pupils to and from lessons can be a costly burden in the tough climate.

It has seen school swimming slide across the country, with Swim England figures from 2015 showing that just 52pc of key stage two children are able to swim 25 metres unaided – despite it being a national curriculum requirement.

Our Summer of Swimming campaign, launched last week, has highlighted how swimming participation, though still the nation’s favourite sport, has dwindled.

And with research showing that children who don’t learn at primary school are more likely to become one of the one in five adults unable to swim, efforts are ongoing to ensure all children earn their water wings.

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