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BBC News reports: A film-maker and photographer is sharing his passion for wild swimming in Scotland’s cold rivers, lochs and seas.

Calum Maclean, from Inverness, makes films and vlogs of his swims and posts them online and also to the website, BBC The Social.

His efforts to seek out new places to explore is also the feature of a new series of TV programmes to shown on Gaelic language channel BBC Alba from this week.

For Into the Water (Dhan Uisge in Gaelic), Mr Maclean was filmed at locations in the Highlands, islands and Argyll.

They included Loch Maree in Torridon, Sanna in Ardnamurchan and a swim between Seil and the island of Luing in Argyll.

Before attempting challenging swims at sea, Mr Maclean checks information on tides and currents, and draws on local boatmen’s knowledge of the waters.

The wild swimmer said: “I never jump straight into cold water – so always acclimatise for a minute first.

“It’s the first 90 seconds that take your body to get used to it, to help avoid cold water shock.”

He added: “Like I say in one of the programmes, I always assess first: how deep is it, how cold is it, are there hidden dangers under the surface such as rocks or branches?

“Also, where can I get out, is there a current, or a rip tide?

“And though I sometimes swim alone – I am experienced at it, and I know my limits. I always get out before you feel cold.”

However, Mr Maclean said there are also places in Scotland where most people should be able to swim safely.

Mr Maclean said: “There’s a boom in wild swimming at the moment.

“It’s very popular now in Scotland and England – in fact all over the world; groups are forming on social media to help people find out about the best natural swimming pools and go swimming together.

“I think the reason it’s so big now is because it becomes addictive – you go once and then you’ve just got to go again.”

Discover the new Hung Out to Dry website…

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From The Independent: “A report by swimming’s governing body, the Amateur Swimming Association, shows that 51 per cent of seven to 11-year-old’s are unable to swim the length of a typical pool (25 metres).”

From the BBC:  “A survey of 3,501 schools, for the ASA and its sponsors Kellogg’s, found that 51% of seven- to 11-year-old’s could not swim 25m (82ft), the length of a standard pool.”

“The national curriculum for schools in England says children should be able to swim at least 25m unaided by the end of primary school.”

“Some 40% of 1,000 parents of 10- and 11-year-olds surveyed for this year’s report said their child could not swim 25m.”

“Some 52% doubted whether their child could swim to safety in open water, 39% said their children were not having swimming lessons and one in 10 said their child only swam on holiday.”

“The report suggests state school pupils spend an average of just eight-and-a-quarter hours a year in school swimming lessons – well under the 22 hours required by the national curriculum.”

Ivory Soap

Changes in the way we see swimming have had a twofold effect on the sport. In times past swimming came to be seen as essential. Lacking bathing facilities at home, boys in particular were encouraged to take a bar of soap down to the river and to bathe whilst having fun in the water.

Shocking though the number of deaths from drowning are; 407 people died from drowning in 2011, of these, 47 were aged under 19, these numbers pail in comparison to the past; in 1878, 3659 souls were lost to water. Strenuous efforts were made to educate youngsters out of danger and reduce the number of deaths by drowning.

Learn to swim

Those who learn to swim in the shielding environment of the indoor heated pool gain a false sense of security as swimmers. It is always easy to get out of such a pool with its steps, ladders and low sides. Swimming in this setting does little to prepare one for misadventure.

Accidents usually mean a sudden and unexpected entry into cold water, often with a current and possibly no obvious means of getting out. Add to this one’s being hampered by shoes and clothing and it’s not hard to see how many such mishaps end in tragedy.

The real world environment comes as such a shock that panic often inhibits rational thinking. Tragically, statistics reveal that the vast majority of those who drowned were far from being capable swimmers. However things need not remain this way. Swimmers have become institutionalised at the public baths so it is no wonder that they find it hard to fend for themselves in the real world.

Open water swimming on the other hand has an inoculationary effect in that it furnishes firsthand experience of:

1) the crucial need to check water depth before diving or jumping in.

2) the difficulties in getting out of a flowing river.

3) currents and how to navigate them.

4) when the weather is especially cold, the experienced river swimmer will know just why to take extra care when walking near water.

To prevent people swimming in open water deprives them of these benefits and might even do them more harm than good, and especially so when you consider that most children, having learnt to swim, never return to the baths but from then on and only swim again when on holiday.

Outdoor swimming is much more fun and much more attractive.  It seems ironic that outdoor swimming was once encouraged as a measure to reduce the number of drownings nationwide, whereas nowadays such swimming isdiscouraged for the very same reasons.

Today our attitude towards swimming outdoors (we view open water with suspicion) means that swimmers are confined to the indoor pool. The fun of outdoor swimming has been replaced and much of the joy in swimming has been lost. In consequence children have much less interest in swimming which affects their quality of life, their physical condition and life prospects should they ever meet with misfortune.

outdo

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From The Independent: “A report by swimming’s governing body, the Amateur Swimming Association, shows that 51 per cent of seven to 11-year-old’s are unable to swim the length of a typical pool (25 metres).”

From the BBC:  “A survey of 3,501 schools, for the ASA and its sponsors Kellogg’s, found that 51% of seven- to 11-year-old’s could not swim 25m (82ft), the length of a standard pool.”

“The national curriculum for schools in England says children should be able to swim at least 25m unaided by the end of primary school.”

“Some 40% of 1,000 parents of 10- and 11-year-olds surveyed for this year’s report said their child could not swim 25m.”

“Some 52% doubted whether their child could swim to safety in open water, 39% said their children were not having swimming lessons and one in 10 said their child only swam on holiday.”

“The report suggests state school pupils spend an average of just eight-and-a-quarter hours a year in school swimming lessons – well under the 22 hours required by the national curriculum.”

Ivory Soap

Changes in the way we see swimming have had a twofold effect on the sport. In times past swimming came to be seen as essential. Lacking bathing facilities at home, boys in particular were encouraged to take a bar of soap down to the river and to bathe whilst having fun in the water.

Shocking though the number of deaths from drowning are; 407 people died from drowning in 2011, of these, 47 were aged under 19, these numbers pail in comparison to the past; in 1878, 3659 souls were lost to water. Strenuous efforts were made to educate youngsters out of danger and reduce the number of deaths by drowning.

Learn to swim

Those who learn to swim in the shielding environment of the indoor heated pool gain a false sense of security as swimmers. It is always easy to get out of such a pool with its steps, ladders and low sides. Swimming in this setting does little to prepare one for misadventure.

Accidents usually mean a sudden and unexpected entry into cold water, often with a current and possibly no obvious means of getting out. Add to this one’s being hampered by shoes and clothing and it’s not hard to see how many such mishaps end in tragedy.

The real world environment comes as such a shock that panic often inhibits rational thinking. Tragically, statistics reveal that the vast majority of those who drowned were far from being capable swimmers. However things need not remain this way. Swimmers have become institutionalised at the public baths so it is no wonder that they find it hard to fend for themselves in the real world.

Open water swimming on the other hand has an inoculationary effect in that it furnishes firsthand experience of:

1) the crucial need to check water depth before diving or jumping in.

2) the difficulties in getting out of a flowing river.

3) currents and how to navigate them.

4) when the weather is especially cold, the experienced river swimmer will know just why to take extra care when walking near water.

To prevent people swimming in open water deprives them of these benefits and might even do them more harm than good, and especially so when you consider that most children, having learnt to swim, never return to the baths but from then on and only swim again when on holiday.

Outdoor swimming is much more fun and much more attractive.  It seems ironic that outdoor swimming was once encouraged as a measure to reduce the number of drownings nationwide, whereas nowadays such swimming is discouraged for the very same reasons.

Today our attitude towards swimming outdoors (we view open water with suspicion) means that swimmers are confined to the indoor pool. The fun of outdoor swimming has been replaced and much of the joy in swimming has been lost. In consequence children have much less interest in swimming which affects their quality of life, their physical condition and life prospects should they ever meet with misfortune.

outdoor swimming

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William and Ellenita Trykush swim at their local pool in Cirencester BBC

Nine-month-old twins from Gloucestershire have been showing off their “unusual” swimming ability.

William and Ellenita Trykush swim at their local pool in Cirencester, with their parents Charley and Vic, and have been known to manage 25 metres – a full length – unaided.

Their teacher told the BBC that she had never seen anything like it.

Watch the video

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A boy in a children's swimming pool.

A boy in a children’s swimming pool. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Back in the seventy’s swimmers were chased out of rivers across the country as water pollution posed an increasing health risk. Children were scared out of their wits by a a sinister public safety film, with swimming pools promoted as the only safe place to swim. Now as bathers refuse to wash properly before entering the water, swimming pools have become polluted.

Dr Chalmers (Public Health Wales)  said “cryptosporidium (a disease that causes severe diarrhea) could survive chlorine in pools, and stressed the need to shower with soap before use.”

This advice follows a steep rise in infections caught at public swimming pools. Public Health Wales (PHW) says it had 283 confirmed cases by the end of September, compared to 248 for the whole of 2011. Swimmers should now shower before using the pool and not swim for 48 hours after having diarrhea.

Last month, 20 people were infected after swimming at a pool in Newport and the pool was closed for six weeks costing thousands of pounds to clean.

The British at one time used swimming pools as a public baths. Cheaper than a private tub, the swimming pool became the place to wash away bodily filth during the industrial revolution. Throughout Europe showering before entering a communal pool is obligatory but the British find the prospect of having a proper wash distasteful, preferring to swim in murky, polluted bath water instead.

We are now so ‘body image’ conscious that more and more clothing is being used in the pool. For men and boys dirty underwear is often worn under swimming shorts adding the remnants of washing powder and other deposits to the mix of pollutants in pool water.

Whether swimming indoors or out you are well advised to look at the quality of the water. If the water looks murky or you detect a strong smell of chlorine ask for your money back and find a safer place to swim. Wild swimmers are often chided for bucking the indoors only swimming mantra. Yet swimming in the clean bathing waters that stream through our countryside, the peace and quiet, stunning scenery and the wonders of nature continue to attract swimmers to the wild as a clean alternative to the murky smelly waters at many indoor pools.

Read the history of British swimming: Hung Out to Dry

More from the BBC…

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Swimmers at 2011 Great North Swim on Windermere, Cumbria

Attitudes towards swimming outdoors have been shaped by our rich and eventful history. Yet with the remarkable achievements of David Walliams who raise over two million pounds for Sport Relief with his eight day 140 miles swim of the Thames, swimmers are increasingly turning their attention outdoors.

Lake Windermere in the Lake District is described by the BBC today as “cold, dark and dangerous.”  Yet it sites Traditional pool swimmer: Graeme Sutton as an open water swimming convert.

‘He was happy with his view of tiles at the bottom of the pool and had no desire to swap it for an expanse of open water.’

Yet he says: “Two years ago I would have said there’s absolutely no appeal whatsoever, It’s cold, it’s damp, you feel horrible. Or at least that’s what my thoughts were – until I went in.”

He liked it so much that, in 2011, he embarked upon the challenge of swimming all 16 of the Lake District lakes in 16 days.

As the tide turns in favor of open water swimming, recreational swimmers are increasingly attracted by the freedom, fun and adventure of swimming in the wild as opposed to the confines of a swimming pool. Perhaps as time passes Britain may re-emerge as the nation of swimmers we once were. David Walliams may turn out to be a modern day Matthew Webb, but that is another story

Read the full article…

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How to orientate during swimming

Concerns for wildlife could scupper plans to stage open water swimming in a lake at a nature reserve, reports the Leicester Mercury.

Dishley Pool, near Loughborough, has been earmarked as a suitable location for outdoor swimming by sporting events firm Racetime Events, it is hoped that the facility would enable training for the triathlon in preparation for the Olympics later this year but this is now doubtful as Charnwood Borough Council, which owns the site off Derby Road, have recommended an application to change the use of the pool be refused by councillors.
Outdoor swimming resurfaced after centuries of neglect right here in Britain during the industrial revolution. Yet since the 1970s outdoor swimming has been rigorously opposed in England despite very different attitudes throughout the rest of Europe. It is true that wildlife has taken over at neglected swimming holes in the mean time, but outdoor swimmers are very sensitive to their environment. Unhappy with swimming in unnatural chlorinated waters when they enter open water they treat it with due respect. Simply by designating a small stretch of the bank for the use of swimmers, habitats are preserved and disturbance to wildlife is negligible.

The whole issue of the right to swim in inland open waters is a hot topic at the moment. A campaign to get British Waterways to allow swimming to continue at Sparth, Huddersfield has been met with understanding by officials. Determined to bring an end to unreasoning prejudice towards open water swimmers, NO SWIMMING signs are soon to be removed and replaced with information boards instead. This represents a turn in the tide of opposition so prevalent until now. In fact this momentous change in the swimmers fortune has attracted the attention of the BBC who intends to run a feature on the current affairs program Inside Out.
It is proposed to allow swimming at Rutland Water this year should water levels be suitable, the very idea of which would have been unthinkable two or three years ago. In view of this perhaps now is the time to reconsider the fate of swimmers today.
Read the fascinating story of open water swimming.

Read the fascinating story of open water swimming.

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