Posts Tagged ‘British Swimming’

Robert Aspey Aqua Park Rutland Water

Rutland Water Aqua Park

If you like outdoor swimming and have traveled in Europe you’ll have been delighted to discover that swimming in rivers and lakes is very much the done thing.  When on holiday in Switzerland a couple of years ago it was obvious that everyone wanted to swim when the sun shone. Lakes in Switzerland have multiple swimming places built all around them with diving boards; pontoons and changing facilities providing opportunities for fun in the water that are convenient for all. Because of our unique history both as an Empire and as the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution we find that our swimming freedoms have all but vanished, well, that is until quite recently, but astonishing things can and do happen don’t they!

Robert Aspey Rutland Water Bathing Beach

Rutland Water Bathing Beach

Swan Pool Chris Ayriss

Swan Pool Swimming Lake

Just as I was enjoying the freedom to swim in the expansive swimming area at Swan Pool (Sandwell Valley Country Park) in Birmingham at the weekend, Robert Aspey was enjoying his freedom at Rutland Water (pictures above). What’s more astonishing still is that this year a new Aqua Park with slides and play equipment in the lake itself has opened for business. Rutland Water Bathing Beach has been a tremendous success; it now looks much more like a European lake than a British one.

This development is very significant. It shows a tremendous confidence that there is money to be made from outdoor recreational swimming. As there is no charge to use the bathing beach, lifeguard costs are covered by car parking charges and an array of seaside amenities that are springing up in the beach area. To use the aqua park for 55 min’s adults and children pay £15 plus £5 to hire a life jacket and another £5 for a wet-suit if desired.

This just goes to prove what has been said all along; open an outdoor swimming beach and people will come. So with these two excellent and successful examples under our belt, just as we exit Europe we may see more opportunities to get into the swim of things.

Swim Smart

Swim Safe

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The Telegraph reports: Organisers of Stert Island Swim, which was first held in 1915, cancel 2016 event after waters are deemed unsafe by EU – despite apparently being cleaner than ever.


The Stert Island Swim, which takes place every year off Burnham-on-Sea in Somerset, has fallen foul of the EU’s decision to significantly increase the pass-mark for safe bathing waters.

Burnham Jetty North was one of 10 beaches that were previously regarded as safe but have been deemed too dirty for swimming under the new standards, which are roughly twice as tough as the old ones.

He said organisers would “reconsider holding the event in 2017 if the sea water improves or if we’re no longer in the EU and the sea water regulations return to how they were”. More…

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Robert Aspey Rutland Water Bathing Beach

The bathing beach is back again this year with an improved infrastructure.

Ever popular with family’s and young children the paddling area is being closely monitored by lifeguards with specialist training. Deeper water in the swimming zone near the buoy line means that their is something for everyone.

Rutland Beach 21-06-2015 (2)

This life-guarded swimming oasis boasts a sandy beach and warm clear water. It stands as a beacon of best practice, a shining example that could be replicated country wide if only local authorities and water companies could face up to and overcome their current prejudice towards outdoor swimmers. Nearby in Stamford the council swimming facilities included a river swimming area at Stamford Meadows.

Stamford Meadows Bathing Place

For those of us who have traveled in Europe and America, bathing beaches on rivers and lakes are the rule rather than the exception. This may surprise those who assume that its the American litigation culture that has seeded opposition to river and lake swimming through risk aversion. Outdoor swimmers have a much easier time in America!

If we are going to make prejudice and discrimination history, we must first understand the history of prejudice against swimmers.

Why not visit Rutland Water Bathing Beach this year?

Take a look at the swimmers list of ASA approved bathing places  from 100 years ago on the Hung Out to Dry website.

Opening hours for the beach are as follows:

Wed – Fri 11am-3pm   Sat- Sun 10am-6pm

May open 7 days a week during school holidays.

Best to phone if traveling far as can be weather dependent 01780 686800

Visit the Rutland Water Beach webpage.

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From a modern perspective swimming was a very British sport. After years or religious and superstitious suppression it was in Britain that swimming reemerged as an acceptable, desirable pastime.

With the birth of the industrial revolution social changes forced swimmers away from their birthright, out of rivers and lakes and into man-made enclosures.

No Swimming at Sparth

No Swimming at Sparth

Even so swimmers were allowed a great deal of freedom indoors, but even these freedoms have now been eroded. Over time the fun of the indoor pool has been quashed by officialdom, our diving boards have been sacrificed to the god of health and safety and many of the social attractions have disappeared.

Kenwood Lido Leicester

Kenwood Lido

The once playful outdoor activity mostly enjoyed by working class boys, has now evolved into a predominantly female sport.

A lack of splashing, jumping and diving means the the rough and tumble years are over. Warm water, private changing rooms and a much calmer atmosphere have meant a decline in male bathers and an upsurge in female swimmers now comprising 64% of the swimming population.

If walking is excluded, swimming remains the number one participation sport in Britain. Sport England’s Active People Survey shows that participation in football continues to decrease from 4.97% to 4.33% of the population with 94% of participants are male. Yet swimming being the number one participation sport is no reason for complacency, swimming still has a very low participation rate.

Only 8.04% of the adult (16+) population swim once a week.

With tighter budgets and a challenging economy what can be done to promote British swimming?

First take a look at how Sport England fund each sport by participant: £38 each for football, £16 for cycling, £11 for athletics but only £8 for swimming, so funding is certainly one issue.

Swimming pools cost a considerable amount of money to build, staff and maintain, yet much could be done to bolster their income. Swimming has always been a social activity, so capitalizing on this much neglected area is one way forward.

Stamford Meadows Bathing Place

Operating a cafe on site that provides a welcoming, quality, value for money meeting place, makes swimming pools much more popular. 

Diving and other sports could be taught and encouraged even if only from the poolside. An ASK ME! tee-shirt could be worn by lifeguards so that swimmers young and old feel encouraged to improve their skills.

Pictures of outdoor swimming in rivers lakes and at the seaside would inspire youngsters to learn to swim well.

The swimming pool should be seen as a stepping stone to bigger and better things. Like schools they are their to inspire their pupils to reach their full potential. A swimmer can never reach his or her full potential in captivity.

The ASA and Sport England are in the driving seat for British swimming. Either they promote swimming or allow it to decline, the future is in their hands!

Discover the rich history of British swimming.

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In the UK we have our own ideas when it comes to right and wrong and public safety. Separated by a wide expanse of water from our American cousins and a much narrower channel from our European partners, our Island mentality is costing lives. In America and Europe outdoor swimming is the expected norm. Summer is a happy time of playful water fun but American and European attitudes seem to have no place here.

Britain once led the world into a new association with water. Mass education of school children in the art of swimming reduced drownings and increased the quality of people’s lives. But today in an effort to be politically correct and not to offend anyone, serious flaws in our education system are accepted and sustained.

Learning to swim - once a British Obsession

Watch this short 1973 public information film and análise your feelings about the message it contains:

The message in this video may seem unacceptable today. Now everyone’s a winner, theirs no wrong answer and no one is to be excluded. But these ideals do not work in an aquatic setting; they don’t work in the real world. Education is the key element of water safety and survival.

People don’t live in ignorance, they die in ignorance.

It may not be PC to mention that a drowning victim couldn’t swim or that his lack of education or ability in swimming outdoors cost him his life (yes, it is usually males that drown) but it’s the truth.

Wild Swimming Can Save Your Life

Wild Swimming Can Save Your Child’s Life

I look back on my childhood with fond memory’s, watching Tarzan swim and fight off crocodiles and Tom Sawyer and his friends rope swinging into the Mississippi. I read about Swallows and Amazons where unsupervised bathing was part of a wonderful summer. And I remember fathers words: “Better drowned than duffers, if not duffers won’t drown.”  It might not be PC to say that the nations children are “duffers” but if they weren’t aquatic “duffers” they wouldn’t drown!

Knowing where and how to “swim safe” is essential and telling adults and children not to go in swimming is just not working.

In a country that recommends higher education to even the least able, we are sadly lacking when it comes to our understanding of a child’s fascination with water.

Despite warnings to keep out and stay away, children instinctively know that plunging into cool refreshing water on a hot sultry day is going to be just delightful. Our European partners and our American cousins recognize this fact and until we do the same needless drownings will sadly be a constant feature of our increasingly hot summers.

The good news is that something can be done! Swimming can be once more celebrated rather than marginalized. As an outdoor swimmer I’m fed up with being Hung Out to Dry. I want to go in swimming; to protect youngsters through education, and see news reports expose the truth, the tragedy of drowning is not that someone went into a river at a beautiful location but rather that a lack of understanding on the part of the non swimmer cost him his life.

An ancient Romans proverbs stated: “An ignorant man neither knows how to read nor to swim.”

“Ignorant” men and boys will continue to drown until they are educated out of ignorance.

If not duffers, won’t drown!”

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The Bristol Evening Post reports:

Outdoor Swimming in Bristol

HOW does an early morning swim in hot bubbling heated water at Bristol’s floating harbour sound to you? For years the harbour has been viewed as dangerous, dirty water for swimmers. And after many warnings from police and fire services, it is now illegal to swim there.

But a campaign has been launched, aiming to transform people’s perspective and the law. Swim Bristol, set up by a group of academics, wants to encourage the city’s residents to swim outdoors. And they say there is no better place than the Floating Harbour.

The group claims the water is cleaner than lots of popular beaches. including Weston-super-Mare and Eastborne.

As part of their plans, segregated lanes could be introduced around the top of the Harbour near to the foundations.

Hot water springs under the city could also be used to heat the water.

But the scheme could prove to be controversial as hundreds of people have had to be rescued down the years after falling in.

Swim Bristol consists of a team of six masters students, studying architecture at the University of West of England.

One of its members Sophie Jarzebowski said: “It is a healthy thing to do in the city, and it is making use of something that is already there. Bristol is a harbour city and this would let people engage with the harbour more directly. People already spend a lot of time around the steps and fountains so this would just be expanding the space people can use.”

The 27-year-old said since the campaign was first discussed as part of a university project, it has really taken off.

She said: “George Ferguson said he was very impressed with the idea and we have had a lot of support on Twitter. We believe everyone should have access to open water, and everyone should be able to swim in it if they want to.”

Sophie said ultimately the group would like to see Bristol becoming the national capital for swimming, with schemes encouraging thousands of residents to take to the water.

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Wild Swimming at Kings Cross LondonIs this the real life or is it just fantasy?

Our Sceptered Isles unique culture is standing in the way of the free swimming movement. Across Europe and throughout America, outdoor swimming is a given during the summer months, but not so in good old Blighty.

Outdoor swimmers, wild swimmers, whatever they prefer to be called are increasingly frustrated at the swimming restrictions imposed upon them. True the risk of unsupervised outdoor swimming is greater than swimming under the watchful gaze of lifeguards at an indoor pool, but is it morally right to lock swimmers out of sight even if out of danger?

Surely no one would suggest that cyclists give up the open road in favor of a spin class, even if that meant they could never again have an accident.

No one would insist that marathon runners compete on tread mills rather than training and competing in the street, no matter how fancy the setting.

But uniquely in England, swimmers have had their freedom curtailed. The great outdoors is out of bounds to the vast majority of budding enthusiasts. Is their any wonder that swimming is in decline? Of course you cannot monitor every pond, riverbank and lakeside across the country and so scare tactics have been employed to keep swimmers under control. From an early age we are indoctrinated with the teaching that if we swim in rivers and lakes we are dicing with death.

However a new movement, entirely separate from the wild swimming community is raising the issue of prejudice in the swimming environment.

The outrageous suggestion has not only been muted, it’s being implemented; to go ahead and build a natural swimming pond in Kings Cross.

A new Wild Swimming pool at Kings Cross London

This building site location will be transformed into a swimming pool oasis for local residents and visitors. Entrance prices will be comparable to local swimming pools and although unable to accommodate up to 2,000 bathers each day as the larger pools in Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Italy do, this small pool is still big enough to welcome 163 bathers each day in warm weather.

Like so many pools across Europe, this bathing oasis will have it’s waters naturally cleansed using plants to filter out impurities just as happens in a natural pools.

Wild Swimming London

It seems ironic that with all the natural pools across the country this man made pond will be the first of its kind in the UK. But in early 2015 and for 20 glorious months thereafter, Kings Cross will become a swimming mecca.

This pool will put outdoor bathing on public display, it will achieve what has not been possible until now, it will show that outdoor swimming is acceptable, desirable and achievable.

Roca London Gallery Urban Plunge

If you would like to know more about the changes London will see over the next few years why not visit the Roca London Gallery and see the free exhibition: Urban Plunge.

To understand the British prejudice towards outdoor swimmers please see the book: Hung Out to Dry Swimming and British Culture, but be prepared, read this book and you will see the British as never before!

If you are not convinced that outdoor swimming is possible without leading to disaster you might enjoy my video featured below:

Just as we had to learn the Green Cross Code before being allowed to cross the road on our own, both adults and children need re-educating in water safety.

Please see advice for adults and teenagers…

Also advice for parents and children…

Please don’t be guilty of prejudice. Before deciding that outdoor swimming is too dangerous for the UK take this short test and discover how sports compare when it comes to drowning risks…

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