The Outdoor Swimmer’s Code

A practical guide to responsible access for swimmers

SOUP by Lance Sagar

With the right to swim, comes the responsibility to do it safely.

The Outdoor Swimming Society has created this practical code for swimmers in consultation with other environmental and safety charities.

Like the Scottish Outdoor Code, the Outdoor Swimmer’s Code follows 3 main principles:

  • Care for the environment.
  • Respect the interests of others.
  • Take responsibility for your own actions.

Care for the Environment

  • Leave no trace, taking all litter (yours and others) away with you.
  • Be sensitive about numbers and the impacts on popular swim spots, and go elsewhere if it is busy.
  • Be aware of fire risk and avoid starting a fire or causing damage with barbecues or cigarettes.
  • Do not pick, uproot, damage or trample plants or trees, including waterweed which is important for invertebrates.
  • Avoid removing rocks or disturbing land features, as important invertebrates can live under these.
  • Be sensitive to bank side vegetation and avoid damaging banks when entering or exiting the water.
  • Avoid disturbing livestock or wildlife, including animals, birds, fish and invertebrates.
    • Keep your distance, particularly from nesting birds in spring and summer.
    • Keep clear of areas important for fish breeding and spawning, such as gravel shoals and riffles, especially between autumn and spring.
    • Be especially careful in areas designated to protect nature. Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) and nature reserves may list what the protections are and what particular care to take.
  • Be bio secure – CHECK, CLEAN, DRY: check swim gear for organisms after swimming, clean it well, and dry gear before swimming again  #spreadthewordnottheweed.

Respect the interests of others

  • Be respectful to other water users and visitors, including anglers, boaters, paddlers, and share the water considerately.
  • Be considerate and respectful of landowners and neighbouring properties. Don’t damage walls or fences. Leave gates as you find them.
  • Be considerate of communities local to swim spots – be quiet, and be considerate when changing or skinny dipping. If necessary, find somewhere else to reduce the pressure on popular swim spots.
  • Park sensitively – don’t block gates to fields, access to houses, or routes for emergency vehicles.
  • Take away other people’s rubbish as well as your own, and never leave litter or food.
  • Where possible, access the water by recognised paths. There can be different viewpoints on whether a swim is allowed, so research the location and keep any discussions polite.
  • If taking a dog along, make sure they do not disturb other people, wildlife or livestock, and keep them under close control or on a lead.

Take responsibility for your own safety

  • Be responsible for your own safety and that of any children or other vulnerable people in your charge.
  • Don’t endanger the safety of others, or seek to persuade them to do anything.
  • Make an assessment every time you swim: consider what the risks might be and what you can do to avoid harm.
  • Know your own limits, and swim within them – there is no such thing as a safe swim spot, only safe swimmers.
  • Learn how to ‘float to live’: to move on your back and float if you are in trouble.

The Outdoor Swimming Society has contacted a wide range of environmental and land management organisations to seek suggestions and support for our work to promote responsible swimming.

We welcome further comments and partners in this code:  please get in touch if you would like to share it, or support it.

The Broads Authority and RoSPA are among the organisations have kindly given suggestions, positive feedback or indicated support for The OSS Outdoor Swimmers’ Code.

Further Reading: