Posts Tagged ‘David Walliams’

Wild swimming in the Thames will come under official ban on Sunday. The new bylaw has been imposed to dissuade swimmers inspired by comedian David Walliams and his 140 mile, eight day charity swim in the Thames last year. Between Crossness, near the Thames Barrier, and Putney Bridge, wild swimming will be illegal from tomorrow unless written permission is obtained in advance from the Port of London Authority.

Reaction is varied. The London Evening Standard reports former Tory MP Matthew Parris as branded the ban “absolutely pathetic,” whereas Daniel Start author of several books on wild swimming said: “In principle I don’t support banning wild swimming but with the Thames it is sensible, it is a tidal river that is dangerous.”

Without a doubt this is a very busy stretch of river. With tides as high as 17 meters, strong currents and the sometimes polluted water, the Thames is a less than attractive option to most swimmers. Even so the ban highlights a disparity between attitudes in the UK and those aboard where choice when it comes to venue is left to the swimmer.

Interestingly the man who won the first 15 mile swim through London in 1907 was Leicester Olympian John/Jack Jarvis. He brought fame to his hometown by winning Gold at the Paris Olympics in the Seine (1900). Having learned to swim in Leicester’s Grand Union Canal, I’m sure he would be horrified to see, in this Olympic year, the restrictions imposed on river swimmers, not just in the Capital, but also the complete ban on open water swimming in his home town of Leicester.

To see just how much has been lost when it comes to swimming freedom; take a look at the list of river swimming venues open in England just 100 years ago: Look, Listen, Swim: 2012.


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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

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English: David Walliams on 8 out of 10 Cats
Image via Wikipedia

Spend an hour with David Walliams and relive the eight day 140 mile Big Swim; an hour long program produced by BBC Bristol to air on BBC One and BBC One HD at 9pm, Thursday 8th March.

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David Walliams, Sport Relief swim

The comedian David Walliams finished his epic 140 mile Thames swim yesterday. The 40-year-old swam the Thames from Lechdale, Gloucestershire to Westminster Bridge arriving around 6.30pm after eight exhausting days. Walliams previously swam the English Channel and the Strait of Gibraltar for Sport Relief, and has managed to raise almost £1million by his latest achievement; swimming the Thames. Although many would be put off swimming in this famous and historic river, there was a time not so long ago when Londoners were encouraged to holiday at home rather than travel to the seaside. Barge loads of sand were dumped on the riverside and London on sea was born.

British history river swimming

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