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Posts Tagged ‘wild swimming’

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The Times reports: Dangerous pollutants in England’s waterways have reached their highest levels since modern testing began, The Times can reveal, with no river in the country now certified as safe for swimmers.

Wild swimming has surged in popularity, with tens of thousands of people bathing in countryside rivers and ponds during the heatwave.

However, an investigation by this newspaper has revealed that rivers in England are not tested enough to be considered safe for swimming. Eighty-six per cent fall short of the EU’s ecological standard — the minimum threshold for a healthy waterway — up from 75 per cent a decade ago.

In addition, half of all stretches of river monitored by the Environment Agency exceeded permitted limits of at least one hazardous pollutant last year, including toxic heavy metals and pesticides.

Despite serious pollution incidents frequently exceeding the limits, prosecutions by the agency against the regional monopolies that run Britain’s sewage systems have declined — to three last year from thirty in 2014.

River Swimming Water Quality

Hundreds of wild-swimming clubs have formed across the country in the past two years, according to the Outdoor Swimming Society, whose membership has climbed to more than 70,000 from only a couple of hundred a decade ago.

Most people who enjoyed waterside beauty spots last week will have been unaware of how Britain’s ageing sewage system is being overwhelmed, placing wildlife and people at risk.

The number of water quality tests taken by the agency for all pollutants fell to 1.3 million last year from nearly five million in 2000. The agency says that monitoring has become “more targeted, risk-based and efficient”, peaking in 2013 after “extensive water quality investigations required for the first cycle of the [EU] water framework directive”. Experts say, however, that monitoring is deteriorating as budgets and staffing levels fall.

The agency said: “Water quality is now better than at any time since the Industrial Revolution, largely due to the £25 billion of investment that the Environment Agency has required water companies to make.

“It is wrong to claim the agency’s budget and staffing levels are dramatically impacting on our ability to monitor water quality. We are the largest environmental protection agency in Europe, with a budget of over £1 billion. Numbers of operational staff have increased by 10 per cent since 2016.”

The agency also said that some recent serious pollution incidents had been caused by extreme weather. Read the full story…

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Mail Online reports: A wild swimming venue has closed four days after a £6.8million relaunch because ‘snowflake’ parents complained the 219-year-old lake is not safe for their children.

  • Beckenham Place Park was swamped with visitors after a £6.8million relaunch
  • Ambulance had to be called on Monday after a child was rescued from the water
  • Lewisham Council said the number of visitors at the lake exceeded forecasts
  • Parents have complained claiming the venue did not have enough lifeguards 

They are erecting temporary fencing around the lake, introducing tickets for anyone visiting the lake area and making sure lifeguards are on duty whenever the water is open to swimmers.

It follows a slew of complaints from parents who said the venue didn’t have enough lifeguards, wasn’t properly signposted and got too deep too quickly.

Even though the definition of wild swimming is that it isn’t subject to the usual safety precautions.

One father-of-two said: ‘If you go to a local leisure centre, children aren’t allowed in the water unsupervised.

‘You hear stories in the summer about children and even young men who have drowned.

‘Who’s going to take responsibility when there’s another little coffin led out of there?’

Comment: In this era of learned helplessness, it’s easy to forget that we are an Island nation. Should we fence off the sea to protect hapless bathers? Or should we take responsibility for our actions and watch over our offspring?

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ITV News reports: Henleaze Swimming Club celebrates its centenary this weekend.

The club – the only one of its type in the country – was well-ahead of its time in gender equality and in the philosophy of physical mental wellness.

The club has more members than ever – in fact there’s a three year wait to join.

But the club’s fortunes have been mixed over the decades, as Rob Murphy reports…

The flooded former limestone quarry in north Bristol had been used unofficially for swimming for 15 years.

But, when two teenage boys drowned – followed by a rise in the popularity of wild swimming – the need for safety on the site helped inspire the official formation of Henleaze Swimming Club in 1919.

It was established at the end of the First World War, some of its earliest swimmers were soldiers convalescing at nearby Southmead Hospital.

The club was progressive, allowing women to be members from its infancy.

For decades gangs of children from the nearby Southmead district would break in at night, illicitly fishing, boating and swimming.

They had their own currency, some boys would catch frogs to swap for catapults or inner tubes. Eventually a large gate was put around the site.

The 1960s and 70s were darker days, where the club struggled financially. At one point it had just a few hundred members.

Henleaze Lake Summer 1989

But another surge in an interest in wild swimming helped surge its renaissance in the late 1980s and it has grown to have nearly two and a half thousand members. There is a three-year wait for full membership.

These days members can enjoy early-morning Friday swims.

And there is a 200-strong ‘Winter Dippers’ club where people swim in icy waters – wearing just swimsuits and caps.

Discover more about the clubs history: Hung Out to Dry Swimming and British Culture pages 36-7 & 145-8

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In the UK, news services feature saftey warnings warning swimmers to stay out of open waters.  Contrast attitudes at home with this refreshing advice from Switzerland.

The Local reports: Switzerland is blessed with a huge variety of lakes and rivers that are perfect for bathing in. But with a number of fatal incidents already hitting the news this summer, we look at the best way to swim in safety.

Following the tragic death of Swiss footballer Florijana Ismaili in Lake Como, Italy, and the deaths of two men in separate incidents this week – one in Wohlen lake in canton Bern, and another in Hallwil lake in Aargau – it’s only too clear how quickly a swim in the great outdoors can go wrong.
The Swiss Lifesaving Society (SLRG) is one of the bodies in Switzerland working to prevent swimming accidents. According to them, there are a few simple rules which should be followed to help keep you safe in the water.
Supervise children
Swimming with little ones? Only allow children near water if they are supervised – and always keep them within arm’s reach.
Avoid alcohol
Never go into the water if you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. You should also avoid swimming if you have a full stomach, or indeed a very empty stomach.
Go slow
Never jump into the water if you’re feeling overheated. As much as you’re desperate to cool down, get in slowly to allow your body time to adjust to the water and avoid cold water shock, a potentially fatal condition.
Avoid the unknown
Don’t dive into cloudy water or in an area of the lake that you don’t know. It might not be deep enough, or there may be obstacles or other hidden dangers.
Leave the airbed on shore
If you’re heading into deep water, don’t use an airbed or swimming aid, since they offer little protection and might give you a false sense of security.
Swim with a friend
You may consider yourself a strong swimmer, but it’s best to never swim long distances alone. Even the best swimmers can experience a moment of weakness.
Keep an eye on the weather
Don’t ever swim in a storm, and leave the water immediately if you see one approaching. Many Swiss lakes have a warning system of flashing lights to indicate that you should get off the water straight away.
Stick to designated areas
Don’t go swimming in areas of a lake where there are boats, ferries or other vehicles – it’s best to stick to the designated swimming areas.
If you stick to the rules and use common sense, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy the wonderful array of places to swim in Switzerland this summer, whether it be a drift down the Aare river, a dip in Lake Geneva or a swim off the rocks in the beautiful Verzasca valley.

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The Times and Star report: A PARTICULARLY invasive form of weed which is threatening plants and wildlife in the Lake District is finally getting wider attention.

There is a danger that New Zealand pigmyweed – described by the National Trust as “the scourge of Derwentwater” – could spread to other, none-infested lakes.

Jessie Binns, who works for the National Trust as a visitor experience manager (North Lakes patch), said: “That’s what we are particularly worried about – if it got into lakes like Crummock it could start to threaten our native wildlife species.”

She added that the weed, first detected in Derwentwater in 1996, out-competed other native species, and that by 2003 the lake immediately south of Keswick had lost at least nine native species of plant.

Although it is a long-standing problem, Ms Binns said that “suddenly it seems to have caught people’s imaginations,” perhaps due to the popularity of wild swimming.

Ms Binns described the pigmyweed that could be found in Derwentwater as big “green sausages,”some of which were tens of metres long, that could be found at Derwentwater.

As the Trust does not know of any way to get rid of the weed once it infests a lake, it is particularly vital that people take steps to ensure they do not inadvertently cause it to spread. Ms Binns said that people who enter a lake could “check, clean and dry” as a precaution. Firstly, people should check anything they take into the water (such as a wetsuit) to make sure there is no pigmyweed on it. Afterwards, clean anything that has been taken into the water (a bucket or trug might be convenient for this purpose), making sure that the dirty water is not poured away down the sink or bath as the pigmyweed can find its way into bodies of water via this route. Finally, it is important to make sure any kit is dry so that pigmyweed cannot survive.

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Teenager Cleans up River for her Brother

News Canada reports: In 2015, 11-year-old Stella Bowles wanted to go swimming in LaHave River in Nova Scotia, but her mom said no. Stella’s mom told her it wasn’t a good idea because of the sewage that was being dumped into the river. This prompted Stella to begin testing the river water for fecal bacteria as part of a science project. She sampled parts of the river where her brother went swimming and, with the help of a local doctor, the samples were tested for bacteria.

The results discovered that the four areas that were sampled had bacteria levels that exceeded Health Canada guidelines.

Stella began to research the impact straight pipes had on the health of the river. A straight pipe system is a sewage disposal system that transports raw or partially settled sewage directly into the water. The discharge of raw sewage into the LaHave River through straight pipes is illegal under the Nova Scotia. She posted her findings on a Facebook page that garnered hundreds of shares and responses.

Stella ended up securing more than $15-million from all three levels of government to fix the problem. In 2018, work to swap out straight pupes for septic systems that include septic tanks, pump chamber, sand filters and drain fields began. More…

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Swim City Exhibition Basel Switzerland

25.05. – 29.09.2019

Swim City

Opening: 24/05/2019, 7 PM

The exhibition “Swim Citywill be the first to draw attention to one particular contemporary phenomenon in the urban space: river swimming as a mass movement – a 21st-century Swiss invention. For decades, cities like Basel, Bern, Zurich and Geneva have been gradually making the river accessible as a natural public resource in the built environment. This has made the river become a place of leisure, right on the doorstep and firmly anchored in everyday life. The rest of the world looks on in awe at the bathing culture in the Rhine, Aare, Limmat and Rhone. Here, cities like Paris, Berlin, London and New York see an example of how they can reclaim their river areas as a spatial resource, so as to sustainably improve the quality of people’s urban lives.

Curators:  Barbara Buser, Architect and Rhine expert; Andreas Ruby, Director S AM
For the film recordings, S AM collaborates with Zurich director Jürg Egli, who creates a large-scale triple-screen projection that will show the experience of river swimming from the perspective of the swimmer.

Discover more…

Basel Swim City

Watch the Video              Discover Wild Swimming in Switzerland

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