Lake District leads the way with swimming guidelines

10th May, 2019

As summer approaches, clear communication between swimmers and other water users becomes increasingly important to promote safety.

The Lake District attracts many swimmers including informal groups, guided swim treks and organised events. Swimming is thriving, and local swimmers attribute this to cooperation between the various water users and authorities.

“The Lakes could be considered one of the best places in the world for open water swimming with amazing access. As long as swimmers respect other water users and don’t put themselves at risk then it can continue to grow,” said open water events expert Colin Hill.

Swimming in the lakes became increasingly popular after the 2008 Great North Swim, but local swimmers, lake cruisers and ferry operators shared concerns over safety and visibility.

An open, collaborative approach between the various parties worked successfully to ensure the needs of all water users were met. “It was always about solutions and never talk of preventing,” explained Colin.

Colin, together with co-founder of Swim the Lakes Pete Kelly, and other local swimmers, liaised with authorities to agree safety guidance. They also raised awareness within the swimming community of the need for tow floats and adhering to safe swimming advice.

Communication is facilitated via a Lake Users Forum which connects representatives from the national park, lake wardens, lake cruisers, sailing, kayaking and swimming to enable them to address issues and concerns.

Key advice from the authority reminds swimmers to be seen, be aware of the cold, generally stay near the shore and understand where and when is good to swim. Some lakes are quieter, while some can be busy with boats. Boaters are advised to look out for swimmers and keep well clear of them.

Protecting the delicate environments of the Lakes is also a priority. “All users of the lakes need to respect the environment; keeping swimming in sensitive sites to a minimum and being careful to avoid spreading non-native invasive species,” said Pete. “The protection of the quality of our unique environment should be right up there with swimming safety.”

Recently there has been discussion around the possibility of increased regulation within open water swimming. “I am very keen to see no regulation applied to swimming in the Lakes aside from a well thought out code of conduct (which we have), which could be promoted more effectively,” said Pete.

Colin Hill agreed: ”By having the framework set up then commercial companies (Great Swim etc.) can promote the sport, and groups and organisations (for example, the British Long Distance Swimming Association(BLDSA)) can thrive, as there is no-one trying to control all these different interested parties and clubs, and groups and individuals can access the Lakes for free.”

Imogen Radford & Liz Lowe

Read more about swimming in The Lake District here.

Read more on invasive species and how to #spreadthewordnottheweed here

Read Kate Rew and Colin Hill’s thoughts on regulation in open water swimming here

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