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The Guardian reports: In 1936, Sir Josiah Stamp, then Governor of the Bank of England, made a speech at the opening of the Morecambe open air baths. “When we get down to swimming” he said, “we get down to democracy.” That sense of importance was not misplaced. Some 80 years later, on a brilliant blue, baking hot Saturday, similar grand emotions were evoked, at the re-opening of Saltdean Lido.

Five miles east of Brighton, Saltdean is a coastal village with the lido sitting proudly right on the seafront. Built in the 1930s, the pool was a glamorous part of the Saltdean “offer”, its main building curved like a cruise liner. The story of it shutting is a familiar one to lido historians, full of benign neglect. The space was measured up by developers, but the community’s eyes were still on it. “As a keen swimmer, architectural heritage lover and local resident there was no way I was going to lose [it] to flats” said Rebecca Crook, director and cofounder of Saltdean Lido Community Interest Company. The company fought to get control of the pool, and won. And after seven years, thousands of dedicated volunteer hours and the raising of £3m, here we are. A sparkling main pool restored to its original 40-metre length, refurbished surroundings and a paddling pool. It felt absolutely ace to be there.

The restoration of Saltdean is part of a wider story – public interest in open-air swimming has boomed in the last decade or so. Jubilee Pool in Penzance reopened last year; Charlton Lido in south-east London has extended its opening hours; there are campaigns to restore lidos to Bath, Peckham and Reading; and to build a new one in the middle of the Thames in central London. These are exciting times for lido lovers, those who want to be outside but don’t have access to wild swimming locations. Who appreciate the actual value of sun on skin. Who want somewhere to learn, or practice, or make community. Who recognise these places, still, as classless and timeless, where status is irrelevant because no amount of cash will buy you a better swim. Those of us in cities and towns who just want a moment’s escape from air con or inside. more…

Discover the history of swimming in England

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 East Anglia Daily Times reports: Open water swimming is growing in popularity. But as well as being enjoyable, could immersing yourself in cold water in the great outdoors be good for your health? Sheena Grant reports

“When you swim,” wrote the late, great Roger Deakin in Waterlog, his spellbinding book about wild swimming around Britain, “you feel your body for what it mostly is – water – and it begins to move with the water around it.”

For Roger, whose journey first suggested itself to him as his swam in the moat around his Suffolk home, swimming – especially outdoors – was like returning to a natural state, to experience how it was before you were born, in the safety of the womb.

He recalled illicit swims from his youth, clambering over a fence to get to the open-air pool in Diss on a sultry summer’s evening, and in the night sea at Walberswick seeing bodies “fiery with phosphorescent plankton striking through the neon waves like dragons”.

Swimming was so much more than a physical activity. There was a spiritual demension to it too. It informed his being like the memory of dreams.

Roger was ahead of the game with his 1996 masterpiece. It’s taken the rest of us a little longer to embrace the joys – and health benefits – of outdoor swimming. But we’re getting there. Membership of the Outdoor Swimming Society has jumped from just 300 in 2006 to more than 25,000 in 2016.

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Seamus Bennett, organiser of the Felixstowe Swimscapes Open Water Swimming group, has no doubt that swimming outside benefits both mental and physical health.

“It’s free and when you do it in a group like we do (which is the safest way) it is very social,” he says. “It gives people the sense of being in a community that takes in different ages, genders and backgrounds. Swimming is a great equaliser and tremendous exercise for all parts of the body.

“Being in open water gives a real feeling of freedom, challenge and achievement that you don’t really get in a pool, unless you’re swimming huge distances. It’s definitely never boring; every swim is different.

“Our group has grown every year since it started in 2012. We’ve gone from 12 to 500 (Facebook) members now. Not all of them come but the interest is there. Numbers at swims have grown too though. On a summer Saturday last year we were getting 30-40 people. This summer I suspect it could go up to 50 or 60

“On your own open water swimming is dangerous. For newcomers especially, having a group and knowing that the sea you are swimming in is safe and knowing the tides is reassuring and important. Being part of a group is more enjoyable too.”

Felixstowe Swimscapes’ summer season runs from May to October, when meets are held on Saturday mornings and Monday evenings, but some members swim all year round on a Saturday morning.

“In the summer we swim to the pier and back, which takes 60-70 minutes but people can do less than that,” says Seamus. “They can do any distance and we swim parallel to the shore so it’s easy to get out when you want to and walk back along the prom. The water quality here is good and there are no dangerous currents. We get people from all over the region who come to join us.” More…

Click here to discover why swimmers in Britain were hung out to dry…

 

 

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Cambridge News reports: Swimmers are being forced out of the River Cam after being “attacked” by parasitic mites that have spread rapidly in the water due to the warm weather.

The parasitic duck mite appears in the River Cam at this time of year and can cause a condition known as ‘swimmer’s itch’ (or cercarial dermatitis).

Ted Hunt is the treasurer of the Newnham Riverbank Club. He said the mites always appeared at this time of year. This year is worse than normal, he said, because of the heat.

“It is quite a well-documented thing,” said Mr Hunt. “It is also called swimmer’s itch. It happens every year. It is a little flat worm that has to find a duck to continue its life cycle. Unfortunately, if people are in the water, it goes to them as well.

“I have been swimming here for 40 years. This year, the river got warm quite quickly, and that has brought them on.”

Mr Hunt said there were practical things people could do to avoid being bitten, including getting a sun tan.

“If you give yourself a good rub down with a towel when you get out instead of drip drying, that seems to get rid of them,” he said. “There are two or three heads in the water right now. People are enjoying themselves. It tends to be people who are very pale they are attracted to, so getting a tan might help.

“In terms of aftercare, people could rub themselves over with aloe-vera. Hopefully, it will die down a bit in the next week.”

Discover the history of swimming in Cambridge

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swimmer1The Forest of Dean and Wye Valley Review reports: A RECORD 82 swimmers made a charity splash when they dived into the River Wye for an annual race.

The fourth Great Wye Swim organised by Monmouth School Sports Centre on Sunday, May 21, raised £1,370 for Mesothelioma UK and the St David’s Foundation.

Swimmers raced over 1km and 2km distances from Dixton Church, blessed by good weather and low water levels and cheered on by a large crowd.

The event was the brainchild of Teresa Tranter, an admin officer at the sports centre, who took part for the first time this year and won the non-wetsuit female class over 1km in 14 minutes 10 seconds.

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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.

After enjoying the wonderful facilities open to outdoor swimmers around the world, swimmers here in the UK can’t help but feel disgruntled that their liberty to swim in rivers and lakes has for many years been denied, and especially so with the scorching weather we have just been enjoying this week.

We want to go dipping but the sign says NO SWIMMING!

The good news is that things are changing. The impossible is being achieved, albeit very slowly.

The problem lies in the fact that  authorities, keen to restrict swimming in open water (for reasons  long forgotten) have truly convinced themselves that wild swimming is just too risky. Its rather like Hans Christian Andersen’s The Emperor’s New Clothes, in that it takes a child to point out the obvious: “But he isn’t wearing anything at all!” The fact is plain to see, if swimming is OK throughout  Europe, how can it be more dangerous here?

This is not to say that its an easy thing for authorities to release their strangle hold on the swimmers freedom. If something goes wrong public opinion will want to point the finger of blame.

The good news comes from the Outdoor Swimming Society in the form of the: Inland Access Guide.

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Download a copy and its message of hope will prove better reading than the Sunday papers!