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Archive for the ‘river’ Category

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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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The Local FR reports: It’s official. The water in the Paris canal is clean enough to swim in meaning Parisians won’t have an excuse not to take a dip this summer.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo has promised Parisians they will be able to swim in the city’s canal this summer after test results revealed the water is clean enough for health standards.
Paris authorities had already voted to allow free swimming in the Bassin de la Villette which links the Canal St Martin and the Canal de l’Ourq in the north east of the city and is one of the locations for the Paris Plages summer beach festival.
But the green light depended on whether the water was clean enough.
The results are in and it’s good news for the city’s swimmers, many of whom took a dip in the canal for a one-off “open day” last summer (see photo above).
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The temporary structures will be built into the actual Bassin, which connects the Canal de l’Ourcq with the Canal Saint-Martin.
The smallest of the pools will be for children and just 40 centimetres deep. Another will be up to 120 centimetres in depth, while a third will be reserved for swimmers at 2m deep.
The pools in total will stretch 90 metres end to end and measure 16m across.
The City Hall estimates that around 1,000 people will show up to the pools on any given summer day.
It plans to take down the pools at the end of the summer period, with the hopes of setting them up again in the summer of 2018.
The Bassin de la Villette was inaugurated in 1808 by Napoleon Bonaparte and was a former port area during the industrialisation of rivers.
However these days it is the centre for numerous cultural events and has been well and truly gentriifed with numerous trendy bars and restaurants opening alongside the water.

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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 Saudi Gazette reports: Mariam Saleh Binladen, a dentist from Saudi Arabia, has set a new record as the first 20160613t182236-1465831356209230300woman to officially swim 101 miles of… the River Thames in the United Kingdom.

Swimming to inspire more women to participate in sport and to raise awareness of the plight of refugee Syrian orphans around the world, Mariam is just the third person and first woman in recent history to have successfully completed the 100+ mile open-water swimming feat. Most recently this included the British comedian and Britain’s Got Talent judge David Walliams, who finished the swim in 2011.

Talking about her successful swim Mariam said: “I am thrilled and very proud to be the first woman to swim 101 miles of the Thames. I wanted to show that a young woman from Saudi Arabia can achieve a lifelong ambition, whilst at the same time raise awareness to bigger causes, particularly the plight of thousands of suffering Syrian orphan refugees. I also want to encourage more women from around the world to participate in sport and show them that anything is possible. More…

 

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WBUR reports: When you think of the Charles River, a lot of things come to mind. But probably not, say, the backstroke. However, that changed Saturday morning. It has been unthinkable for decades but members of the general public actually swam in the Charles near the Hatch Shell in Boston. Recreational swimming in the river has not been legal since the 1950s, when it was banned because the Charles was so polluted.

A lot of work and about $500 million have been spent on cleaning up that water. Much of it was to separate sewage from storm water and to separate those pipes so that the sewage goes into the island and we don’t have raw sewage going into the River.

Wild Swimming returns to the Charles River Boston

City Lab reports: To be safe for swimming, water must have less than 126 colony forming units of E. Coli per 100 milliliters of water. The standards for safe boating are five times higher. When that nearly-failing D grade was first published in 1995, the part of the river that flows through Boston and Cambridge met boating standards 39 percent of the time and swimming standards an abysmal 19 percent of the time. In 2011, the river was rated safe for boating 82 percent of all days and swimming 54 percent of the time. The overall EPA grade for the last 10 miles of the river is calculated from a composite of daily forecasts and monthly readings. It has hovered for the last few years around B or B+, which many say is the best they can hope for for such an urban river. 

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News from Canada – Officials say swimming the South Saskatchewan is dangerous, yet CBC News reports:  “The city of Saskatoon’s bylaw is quite clear: “no person shall swim in the South Saskatchewan River within the limits of the City of Saskatoon.”  But the river is right there, cool and convenient, and when the sun is high and hot, many people tend to ignore that bylaw and take the plunge.”

“Police have no plans for a big crackdown in illegal swimming in the city. However, they are monitoring the situation. Edwards said that from a policing perspective, swimming is perhaps less problematic than things like illegal parking, alcohol consumption and littering.” 

“A report to Saskatoon city council in 2012 recommended against creating a public beach within the city limits due to the danger of swimming and wading in it… During the summer of 2011, the report states that police were deployed a number of times to the sandbar along the river between Pembina Avenue and Ravine Drive. Officers observed between 500-750 people on the sandbar during hot days.”

“The report said that the high numbers of people going to the sandbar led to issues with parking and littering.” More…

 

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From the Hudson Reporter:

Dreaming of swimming in the Hudson River?
Local sewerage authority must start action plan for cleaner waterways

Don’t look now, but the Hudson River is on the mend. Marine biologists have reported resurgent oyster populations on the piers of western Manhattan, and humpback whales are returning to New York Bay in droves. No longer is the Hudson a mere receptacle for industrial waste and double-crossed mafiosi.

Unfortunately for the residents of Hudson County, one of the final obstacles preventing the river from being fully safe for swimming and fishing lies directly beneath their feet. Along with several waterfront communities in Bergen and Passaic counties, every city in Hudson County has a combined sewage and storm-water system that overflows during heavy rain events, pouring raw sewage into the Hudson River.

At the Hoboken Cove Community Boathouse, for example, half of the 18 water samples taken since May 2014 show bacteria levels deemed unsafe for swimming, most coming after rainfall in the four prior days, according to data from clean water watchdog Riverkeeper.

Such combined sewer overflows or CSOs are not just unsafe—they are illegal under the Clean Water Act of 1972. Rather than waiting for the EPA or federal courts to order a corrective plan, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has issued new permits that require the entities responsible for New Jersey’s 217 combined sewer outfalls to develop long-term plans to reduce the frequency of polluting events.

Positive sign?

Jon Miller, the President of the Hoboken Cove Community Boathouse, is optimistic that the new sewer permits could mean an end to his organization’s monitoring of water quality in the Hudson River someday soon.

“We have partnered with water testing professionals at Riverkeeper, Hackensack Riverkeeper and Resilience adventures among others, to make sure we run a program that is safe for all involved by monitoring outflows and water quality,” said Miller in a statement. “Hopefully in the future this type of monitoring will no longer be necessary as the river becomes even cleaner through the efforts of so many local state and federal organizations.”

However, Fredric Pocci said he doubts New Jersey’s efforts to combat CSOs will be enough to make the Hudson River consistently swimmable on their own. Before coming to the NHSA, Pocci was the chief sewer engineer for New York City, which has 650 combined sewer outfalls in Manhattan alone.

“Whatever we do is a drop in the bucket, literally,” said Pocci. “From what I see right now coming out of the city of New York, I don’t think that they’re planning on attacking [CSOs] the way the state of New Jersey is planning on attacking it, and without them on board with the same kind of game plan, it’s not going to have a positive effect.”

Pocci still thinks Hudson County’s combined sewers are a task worth tackling. “Aside from the fact that this is going to be a very expensive proposition for everyone,” he said, “as a civil engineer, this is very exciting.” More…

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