Access all areas

OSS releases boundary breaking guide to creating Inland Bathing Areas, supported by Robert Macfarlane and Ranulph Fiennes

© Dominick Tyler

This month, the OSS Inland Access Group, start a new chapter of swimming’s history by publishing the groundbreaking OSS Guide to Inland Bathing Areas – a guide that will enable more public access  to outdoor swimming.

 

Robert Aspey

Inland bathing areas are popular and common across Europe, with people having free, unsupervised access to rivers and lakes, but the same access to inland beaches is rare in the UK. Here, swimming is either “wild” or paid for. The OSS Inland Access Group, a group of committed activists, have been working tirelessly to change this for the last 10 years, and opened three swimming spots in that time.

In 2000, following a lengthy campaign by the Ramblers, walkers won a right to roam over wild, open countryside in England and Wales. This remains one of the most significant milestones in Ramblers’ history. The hope is that this guide will be a similar pivot point in the access rights of swimmers.

To read the Inland Access Guide, please click here

Lake Guerledan Brittany

“What a hugely inspiring project this is: practical, democratic and joyful at once….” says OSS Patron Robert Macfarlane. “”The OSS has for a decade now sought to open both our minds and our waterways to the possibility of swimming outdoors, in rivers, lakes and seas. . And how it has succeeded! Tens of thousands of people have taken to the open water who would never have thought to do so before.

“Here is a guide that shows us how new inland beaches can be brought into being: sites where anyone can swim just for the sake of swimming. We might think of such places as a kind of new commons: accessible to all, where simple and unworried swims can be taken, new friendships can be made, and the sheer pleasure of swimming under the sky can be experienced by anyone who wishes to feel it.

“This is the real deal: a politics of place that mixes the gnarliness of legislation with a belief in the value of self-reliance and the possibility of joy in nature.”

"We might think of such places as a kind of new commons: accessible to all, where simple and unworried swims can be taken, new friendships can be made, and the sheer pleasure of swimming under the sky can be experienced by anyone who wishes to feel it."
Robert Macfarlane

“We all need places we can be free and go on adventures, but public land has restricted access to swimmers far more than it has legislated against climbers and walkers. This guide will help change that; the Outdoor Swimming Society is making sure we all have places to take ourselves, children and grandchildren for a free outdoor swim. If you value swimmers freedom, join them.” Ranulph Fiennes

The authors of the OSS Inland Bathing Area Guide, Roberty Aspey and Chris Dalton, explain just how this will improve our swimming lives:

What is the importance of the Inland Access Guide?

Chris: Every time I speak to a landowner about swimming they roll out the same myths about the perceived dangers and the liabilities they might leave themselves open to if they were to allow it. This guide is intended to dispel these myths and help people understand how they can safely allow swimming in their waterways.

Robert: There has always been a lack of clear guidance for landowners wishing to allow swimming in open water, which often leads to swimming being prohibited. This resulted in the loss of many suitable outdoor swimming sites, which removed the opportunity for people to participate in the sport. For this reason, the Inland Access Group decided to research the legal situation and produce clear guidance on how to allow outdoor swimming in rivers, lakes and reservoirs. The Inland Access Guide will be essential for increasing access for recreational outdoor swimming.

What do you hope the Inland Access Guide will do for swimming in this country?

Chris: Hopefully it will lead to the proliferation of swimming spots, which people can use safe in the knowledge that they aren’t going to be challenged by an irate landowner worried about being sued!

Robert: The draft version of the guide has already been successfully used in three ground-breaking access projects at Rutland Water (East Midlands), Swan Pool (West Bromich), and Sparth (Huddersfield). So going forward we hope more landowners will be encouraged to use this guide to help them open up more access to open water for outdoor swimming.

Antonina Bukowska

How will this guide change people’s lives?

Chris: I, for one, would love to be able to take a dip in the reservoir which is one my way home from work without having to do battle with fences and “no swimming” signs.

Robert: Outdoor swimming has little or no impact on the environment, and it encourages people, especially children, to spend more time getting healthy exercise because they are having fun with consequent improvements in their health. Opening up more access will allow more people to take up outdoor swimming. Instead of being faced with the long drives to the seaside on overcrowded roads, people will be able to walk, cycle or drive only a short distance to their local open water swimming site.

“This is the real deal: a politics of place that mixes the gnarliness of legislation with a belief in the value of self-reliance and the possibility of joy in nature.”

Robert Macfarlane

 

Three sites which have already opened thanks to the Inland Access Guide:

Rutland Water

Rutland Water Bathing Beach, East Midlands

At Rutland Water Bathing Beach visitors can enjoy a 140metre stretch of shoreline, a 2,800 square metre swimming area, as well as a grassed area for relaxing, cafes, toilets and a shop. Whilst you pay for the parking, access to the water is free. For opening dates and times, visit anglianwater.co.uk. Rutland Water Bathing Beach has lifeguards and is accessible from the Rutland Water Visitor Centre at Sykes Lane.

Click here to view it on the OSS Wild Swim Map

oss-access-all-areas-swan-pool Swan Pool

Swan Pool, West Bromwich

Swan Pool in West Bromwich, Birmingham, is a large body of water in Sandwell Valley Park. It is considered an oasis of green in the middle of the West Midlands urban conurbation. Thanks to a local group of people and the OSS Inland Access Group a swimming ban, which had been put into place by Sandwell Council, was removed in 2015 and replaced with wild swimming safety signage. Today it is a popular swimming venue accessible to all.

Click here to view it on the OSS Wild Swim Map.

“We might think of such places as a kind of new commons: accessible to all, where simple and unworried swims can be taken, new friendships can be made, and the sheer pleasure of swimming under the sky can be experienced by anyone who wishes to feel it.”

oss-access-all-areas-sparth-reservoir Sparth Reservoir

Sparth, Huddersfield

A small pond popular with locals, Sparth was used by the local authority in the 1960s and 1970s to teach children to swim their “outdoor mile”. Swimming is possible from two small “beaches” or from steps down from a bridge.

Click here to view it on the OSS Wild Swim Map.

Jessica J. Lee © Ricardo A Rivas

“This guide comes at a crucial time, as outdoor swimming is on the rise and access to our landscape and its waters is ever more precarious. It succinctly makes the case for swimmers’ rights and access to inland waters, and provides clear guidance for land owners who are able to grant it.”

 ​Jessica J Lee​, swimmer & author of ‘Turning’

© Joe Minihane

“Improved access to inland water is so vital in showing why outdoor swimming matters. Swimming’s benefits, both physical and mental, are all the more acute when a dip is taken outside. The idea of more places being safe and accessible to all isn’t just appealing, it’s essential for showing why the great outdoors is there for all of us to share, enjoy and be part of.”

J​oe Minihane, swimmer & author of ‘Floating’

Brandish TV

“This initiative is pretty exciting for all us keen outdoor swimmers who can’t get to the sea. There’s so many lakes and rivers in Britain it would be great to swim in, and it’s fantastic that Outdoor Swimming Society are leading the charge.  Things can change! This is how! Bring it on.”

Jenny Landreth, swimmer & author of ‘Swell’

View inland bathing areas collection

The OSS is proud and thankful to Robert Aspey and Chris Dalton and the others members, contributors and supporters of the OSS Inland Access Guide for creating this guide, and for sharing their expertise and experience.

If you are interested in setting up and inland access beach in your area, please join the OSS Inland Access Group.

To read the Inland Access Guide, please click here