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image-20161208-31364-86rhncThe Conversation Reports: Our modern distaste for river swimming is a stark constrast with a history where urban rivers provided a venue for sport, recreation and entertainment – all within easy distance of shops, offices and public transport.

Pollution has changed the face of river swimming across the world. Not that pollution in itself has put people off outdoor swimming. In the UK for instance, summertime tradition sees holidaymakers keen to paddle and swim in the sea despite pollution on many beaches. Rather, the public perception that rivers and lakes are unsafe or unclean is so intrenched that it is rarely questioned. Rather like the beguiled Emperor in Hans Christian Anderson’s: The Emperor’s New Clothes, todays would be swimmers are so convinced by what they think they know that they cannot see what is obvious to little boys.

Discover just how different attitudes are in Switzerland

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The River Torrens was home for the Gilberton Swimming Club until 1970 when it was banned from using the waterway

Adelaide Now reports:

A 100-year-old swimming club that started in the River Torrens is closing but only after sharing its $450,000 nest egg with the community. Gilberton Swimming Club will spread the money among the Walkerville, Klemzig, Vale Park and East Adelaide Primary schools. The $450,000 sum has grown from about $150,000 the state government paid the club when it was forced out of the Torrens swimming hole in 1970.

Gilberton Swimming Club on the banks of the River Torrens

A ban on swimming in the river displaced the club, which received the money for land it owned either side of the Torrens pool. The homeless club has since funded children’s swimming classes in local pools instead of building a replacement pool of its own. More…

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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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Wales Online reports: The River Severn is 220 miles long and Ross O’Sullivan has given himself 20 days to swim the whole thing.

The Severn is Britain’s longest river. But it’s initially too shallow to swim in, so he’ll be walking the first 50 miles or so from the source near Llandiloes to Pool Quay.

He’ll be alone and he’s not taking a tent, sleeping bag and only the minimum in cash. So he’s hoping local pubs, restaurants and hotels will provide him with board and food along the way. More…

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The Connection reports: Swimming in the Seine could become a reality in the next year as mayor Anne Hidalgo has launched a 43-point plan to clean up the Paris river.

Aiming to make the Seine a focal point if the city wins the 2024 Olympic Games, she wants to “improve the water quality” and open up the Bassin de la Villette for swimmers next year.

Swimming has been banned on the river since 1923 except by special permit and the last major event to be held on the Seine was the Paris Triathlon in 2012. However, that year a competitor died after falling ill in the water and the next planned event, with 3,000 swimmers, was banned by the prefecture. More…

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Indy Star reports: Would you use a beach on the White River?

Would you set up an umbrella and sun yourself on a sandy area on the urban waterway that flows through Indianapolis? The one plagued for years with pollution issues?

Yes, that’s a serious question — because it seriously could happen.

“It would be a missed opportunity if we didn’t develop the banks of the White River.” said Chris Gahl, vice president of Visit Indy, the city’s tourism agency. “Why not think big? Why not think progressively? If we don’t think big, we’ll get passed by.”

So Visit Indy is thinking big  and long term. The prospect of a beach along the banks of the White River Downtown came out of its first tourism master plan, launched in 2015 with a goal of attracting 5 million more visitors to Indianapolis by 2025. In the past 18 months, Visit Indy researched the needs and wants of state residents, business owners, community leaders and elected officials and identified areas to target to reach that goal.

“Our research shows people are attracted to water,” Gahl said. “(The White River) is an underutilized attractant in the city. People would gravitate to it.” More…

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Prague, the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic has a population of 1.24 million. This fascinating city is a World Heritage Site attracting more than 4.4 million visitors each year.

Visit Prague

What may surprise you and temp you to visit the city, is the prominence of swimming facilities making Prague an ideal holiday destination for the adventurous wild swimmer.

River Beach Prague

Swim in the Vltava Prague

You may know that Czechoslovakia was occupied by Germany during the Second World War until its liberation in 1945 by Soviet and American forces. The Communist Party of Czechoslovakia won the 1946 elections and just two years later a coup d’état ended with government in the hands of a single-party communist state under Soviet influence. Continuing dissatisfaction with the regime led to a Soviet-led invasion in 1968 and with this the door was firmly closed to travel aboard.

Prague City Tours

With a huge population and short but very hot summers to contend with there was no chance of escaping to the coast. Swimming lakes were thus constructed to meet the demand for summertime water sports and recreation.

Lake Prague Swimming Vodní nádrž Džbán

The lake Vodní nádrž Džbán was constructed in the seventies with four or more swimming areas to suit all tastes. Buildings which initially look like holiday homes dominate the backdrop and give further insight into the country’s history. These building housed cloak rooms, hundreds of them. Although they now look very sad and neglected they were at one time the heart and soul of the swimming experience. As you gaze at this changing room extravaganza you can’t help but wonder why swimmers fled the lakes and beaches provided for them?

In 1989 revolution led to the collapse of the communist regime, four years later Czechoslovakia peacefully dissolved, resulting in the independent states of the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Freedom for the people saw a mad rush for the seaside and most backs turned to the old style staycation river and lake beaches.

Without state support and investment and with dwindling patronage they became run down, neglected and vandalised. For visitors to the Czech Republic It has been hard to imagine the past popularity of these swimming facilities until that is, the sweltering summer of 2015 drew sunbathers and swimmers back in their thousands. At this site alone over 80,000 Crowns was taken in a single day with crowds reminiscent of twenty years ago. This resurgence has sparked fresh hopes that the rundown facilities will receive more attention and financial investment in the years to come.

Wild Swimming in Prague

Finding the lake: Situated on the main road between the airport and the city take the (underground) Metro to Dejvická (line A), then take tram 20 or 26 to the terminus at Džbán. Walk towards Mc Donald’s and take the road to the right into the park. Follow the road downhill as it sweeps to the right or take the stairs to cut off the corner. Head for the dam and then turn right and follow the lake around to the grassy beach and free swimming section, or turn left into the swimming complex. First you will pass the disused diving boards then once you have paid the fee go inside the swimming complex walking through the naturist section and on into the main swimming area beyond the first blocks of changing rooms. Water quality at the lake deteriorates in high summer, the water develops a greenish hue (much like the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park) but water quality standards are displayed at the entrance and for the most part are fine for swimming. Food and drinks are served one or more of three cafe-bars in the complex depending on how busy the lake becomes. Children’s play equipment, toilets and lakeside showers are also available. Entrance fee 50 Crowns for adults which is about £1.40.

Hostivař lake swimming wild swimming Prague

On the other side of the city you can visit Hostivař. Take the metro to Háje (link C). Exit the train turning right and continue in the same direction you have been travelling but now on foot. On exiting the station walk straight ahead through an elevated street of small shops. Descend to ground level on exiting the shopping complex and follow the main road in the same direction until you reach the bus depot. Follow the path to the left through the depot passing the football field on your left and then on down the hill until you reach the main lake complex.

Swimming Lake Hostivař Prague

This huge swimming lake is very picturesque and would fit in happily in the Lake District. A huge sandy beach and many amenities make it a favourite with families and swimming enthusiasts. I can’t help think about the many lakes near big cities in the UK that could be profitably opened up to an eager public, keen to experience wild swimming close to home. Swim at your own risk is the rule abroad; the live and let live attitude is a good example worthy of imitation.

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Swim at your own risk

Back in the city you can take a dip at one of two riverside beaches. I recommend the east bank of the Vltava at Žluté lázně.

River Swimming Prague Žluté lázně

There has been some serious money spent on this facility and it’s a great place to spend your leisure time in Prague. Excellent cafés and restaurants along with a children’s play centre and outdoor splash pool make it very popular in summer.

Žluté lázně river swimming in Prague

Again I can’t help thinking about the many parks in English cities that could offer riverside beaches and recreation if only misconceptions regarding health and safety could be addressed and overcome.

Getting there: Take tram 3, 16, 17, or 21 down to Dvorce, and look out for the complex beside the tramline.

For those keen on experiencing all that Prague has to offer you can also enjoy the ever popular outdoor and indoor pools: Aquapark Lagoon LetnanyNa Petynce or Podoli

Whatever your preference a visit to Prague would not be complete without a swim in its natural waters!

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