Group of 13 swimmers with placards reading ‘Right to Swim’ and ‘Swimming Is for Everyone’, glimpse of reservoir

Right to Swim nationwide 2024

Trespass swims and protests roundup: Kinder Unbound April 2024

Kate Rew

In the year that the Kinder Swim Trespass went nationwide, Kate Rew reports from Somerset and we share the stories sent in from the other swim protests around England on or around 28 April 2024

Chew Valley Reservoir, Somerset

If I was going to choose a date for a nationwide swim trespass for the Right to Swim, it wouldn’t be the end of April. At 6pm on Saturday 27 April it was cold and rainy, the water still chilly: it was the kind of evening people stay in watching TV not go out protesting.

I was first to arrive at Herons Green Bay, a large parking bay by the side of Chew Valley reservoir, and stood in the wind with my RIGHT TO SWIM placards, wondering who else would come. As it turned out – heaps of swimmers, about 20.

Between Bath and Bristol there are lots of us doing different work from different angles around swimming access, connection with nature and what it means to be part of this planet, and this event started to pull all of us together. Among the swimmers were local environmental scientists, lawyers, activists, journalists, a phD student working on access and common ground and a mother with a young child who wants to make this happen, for real. We had Johnny Palmer, locally famous for his Swim Bristol Harbour and Warleigh Weir projects, with some of the Bristol ‘splash mob’; a wild synchronised swim troop and Charlotte Sawyer, director of Rave On For The Avon. Stompy Cole couldn’t make it, nor could local photographer William Templeton (Ways & Means) or Bristol based Karni & Saul (Karni & Saul (Wild Summon) but maybe they will next time, or for the summer solstice. It gives you hope, that just one small, cold, windy swim on a reservoir can bring together such a wide variety of swimmers doing different things to mend our relationship with water, and increase our access to it.

The OSS has been giving people ‘permission’ to swim since 2006 when I started it, but it was still a thing for me to transgress local byelaws and the rules of Bristol Water and break the surface tension on this reservoir. There are so many signs everywhere telling you not to swim I felt uneasy about it – I didn’t want conflict. ‘I don’t think you should do it mummy,’ said my 12 year old. ‘Why not?’ I asked. ‘Because of your knees.’ ‘What about my knees?’ ‘The police might hit them with truncheons.’

In the end there were no truncheons, or security guards, just some polite messages from Bristol Water on social media about risks. And when we did swim it was lovely – a hawthorn hedge in full blossom sheltered us from the road and the water was fresh, not punishing, and in a county with a lot of swimmers but surprisingly few places to swim, very beautiful. Kate Rew

Kate Rew and other swimmers with placard reading ‘Right to Swim’ on reservoir bank Chew Valley reservoir
Kate Rew with placard reading ‘Right to Swim’ in front of reservoir with other swimmers in the water Chew Valley reservoir

Other protest swims around the country on or around 28 April 2024

Large group of swimmers getting into the reservoir, can just see one placard reading ‘Right to Swim’ Fernilee Reservoir

Fernilee Reservoir, Derbyshire

We had a gathering of swimmers at this United Utilities owned reservoir: 23 hardy souls braved the elements and took to the water at 12 noon on Sunday 28 April. At one point bodies in assorted swim garb and carrying ‘Right To Swim’ signs converged from both ends of the track and from over the hill. It was an inspiring sight and an awesome gathering of swimming smiles. One swimmer said: “Since starting swimming in this beautiful place last year it has made such a difference to my mental health and fitness. It helps to ease your mind.”

Swinsty Reservoir, North Yorks

For the last three years we have performed our own small acts of defiance, first at a local reservoir called Compensation, and for the last two at Swinsty Reservoir in the Washburn Valley, North Yorkshire. This event is getting progressively bigger; this year we had just over 40 people. Hoping for more next year. One of our ladies with progressive MS has had a fantastic improvement in her health since swimming with us. If water companies continue to dump in our rivers and seas we will swim in the reservoirs.

Large group of swimmers with placards reading ‘Right to Swim’ and ‘Reservoir Hogs’, in front of reservoir Swinsty Reservoir
Group of swimmers getting ready to swim, with placards reading ‘Right to Swim’, in front of reservoir Edgbaston Reservoir, Eva Bennett

Edgbaston Reservoir, Birmingham

A bunch of local Bluetits held a ‘mass trespass swim’ on 28 April, calling for the right to swim in our local reservoirs as they already have in Scotland. Inspired by the Kinder Reservoir Trespass Swim we chose the reservoir that’s most accessible to Birmingham’s citizens. We need local water access everywhere – ‘common water’ as well as common land; the right to swim as well as the Right to Roam. Supported from the banks by Friends of Edgbaston Reservoir; we support their campaign to protect public access around the reservoir. We had a fab time, it was sodding freezing and we will be doing it again! #ReservOURS


 Roadford reservoir, Devon

A small group of us did our own Kinder swim trespass at Roadford Lake on the same day, 28 April. (Swimming is not allowed here other than at organised events.) The ranger was waiting for us at our chosen entry point. We had a good natured exchange of views after which he left us (unhappy) in the knowledge we were going in the water anyway. My take from this discussion was that South West Water or South West Lakes Trust need to work with swimmers to make sure the enjoyment of the water is for all who wish to use it, and communicate with swimming groups so that they have a route to press for change.

Four swimmers ready to swim, with placards reading ‘Right to Swim’, in front of reservoir and foliage Roadford reservoir
Swimmer entering a lake through foliage, cloudy sky A South Manchester lake

A South Manchester lake

I wanted to support this year’s important trespass swims in a small way. Some say not to swim here as it is a local nature reserve, and some swim (with care and well away from where birds roost) but keep quiet about it. Swimming here responsibly does no harm to the wildlife, and it’s a really important resource given how few options Mancunians have to swim. Discussion prompted by the trespass has helped to clear up misconceptions about the lake’s status so maybe more will swim now.

Redmires Top Reservoir, Yorkshire

My swimming friends and I really wanted to show our support for the Kinder Swim Trespass and raise awareness of how important it is to have clean water to swim in, like reservoirs. Due to terrible weather and commitments a small group of us went to Redmires rather than Kinder… and amazingly the sun came out! There was the usual hyper giggling and chatting and the post cold water natters with cakes and hot drinks… oh and a little nip of something strong! It was lovely as always to be out with this lovely bunch doing what we love so much!

5 swimmers in a lake with blue sky; 5 swimmers in a lake with handmade banner reading ‘We Have the Right to Swim’ (two images combined) Redmires Top Reservoir, Yorkshire

Arlington reservoir, East Sussex

Three Amigos Trespass Swim at Arlington. The reservoir opened up to us like a large twinkling eye. Three miles of waterside circular paths dotted with neon lifebuoys labelled ‘No Swimming’ dared the three of us to pick our spot. Passing under the 360-degree gaze of the Brutalist valve tower, we melted seamlessly into Sunday strollers, imitated twitchers in the bird hide and waited for the burble of passing families to fade. Down a narrow path near Glennister’s Point, we were warned off by another prohibitive sign, along with a locked gate into a reserved foreshore, which we hastily and furtively climbed. The scrubby bank was prickly underfoot, and a mesh skin covered with ballast lined the water’s edge. We had come this far, and were not to be deterred! Like a trio of wading birds, we stalked in until our legs lifted and splayed in slow motion homage to the puff of swallows winging above us. The sky looked pale and startled. We landed ourselves just as we spotted one of the rangers driving slowly along the bank in the blue and white South East Water truck. It was worth every moment. Miranda, Karen and Matt

Combined images: sign saying private no access with view of reservoir; person going through a gate towards reservoir Arlington reservoir
two swimmers in a large body of water with sky and hills behind Arlington reservoir

Blue Lagoon, Bletchley

We swam to support those taking part in the Kinder Trespass Swim and to call for the right to swim in all waters. We need access to the lakes in Milton Keynes, we are so far from the sea. The local council and Parks Trust put up No Swimming signs and security guards patrol the water telling people they are not allowed to swim and to get out of the water. Misinformation about liability and risk is not matched to the actual liability and risks. We should be educating people on the risks so that they can enjoy the water in a safe way and not be told ‘don’t enter’. We visited Scotland and Copenhagen recently and the access to water there was brilliant. Why can’t we have the same? Lisa

Many swimmers in lake holding placards reading ‘We Have the Right to Swim’, foliage edged water behind Blue Lagoon, Bletchley, Rachael Stirling
Many swimmers seen in the distance in lake, swan in the foreground with placards reading ‘We Have the Right to Swim’, foliage edged water behind Blue Lagoon, Bletchley, Rachael Stirling
Many swimmers standing in front of lake holding placards reading ‘We Have the Right to Swim’, foliage edged water behind Blue Lagoon, Bletchley, Rachael Stirling
swimmers in lake in bright bobble hats, ducks in foreground, foliage edged water behind Blue Lagoon, Bletchley, Rachael Stirling
Swimmers in a reservoir with their arms up with a banner reading ‘The Right to Swim’, with a humming sign in front of them Bottoms reservoir

Bottoms reservoir, Glossop, Derbyshire

Usually we swim in a smaller reservoir in the area, where people are used to seeing us, but this time swam at a very visible and public United Utilities reservoir at the bottom of the Woodhead Pass instead. We had just over 25 swimmers plus a handful of supporters. On a rather drizzly day we didn’t encounter any UU employees. It led us to think about why we had not really swum in it before, perhaps concerns about public reaction. We really enjoyed it and decided that we will definitely swim there much more in future. Making the swimming more visible. We want everyone to have the #RightToSwim and to enjoy the hundreds of inland waters in England.

Hampton Beach/Teardrop Lake, Peterborough

We have been swimming here at this former brickpit for just over a year, and many have travelled distances to get here when the rivers were affected by rain. We have met little resistance from locals, and when one person posted a snap of us in a local Facebook group saying that it was irresponsible this was met with lots of people telling them they had grown up learning to swim and swimming in similar places, that it was good to see people enjoying the lake responsibly and that no harm was being done. Wonderful to be joining the network of people swimming on the same day in a nationwide call for clean and accessible places to swim. #RightToSwim #GoSwimming Helen

five swimmers in front of water with a beautifully illustrated home-made placard with an image of the blue swimmer and some fish, reading ‘Right to Swim’ Hampton Beach, Peterborough
two women in the water holding placard reading ‘We Have the Right to Swim’, green shady river Guys Cliffe, Warwickshire

Guys Cliffe, Warwickshire.

We have the right to access green space for health, wellbeing, recreation and active travel, why not on water too? People have been accessing and utilising waterways for hundreds of years. This beautiful swim spot on the river Avon has been enjoyed by many generations. We are incredibly passionate about the Right To Swim, to ensure everyone can have free, legal access to safe places to swim and enjoy like we can walk and historically swam. I spotted the ad on social a few days before and though we couldn’t make it to Kinder we could easily support this. Many swim here though only a small number could make this date and place. #Sharethespace #ResponsibleSwimming Heather & Lilly (Mother & Daughter)

Fonthill Lake, west of Salisbury, Wiltshire

A watery trespass – a kingfisher darting across the lake, swooping martins and swallows, a great crested grebe eating a fish, impressive trees, mossy grottos and a laughter filled dip by a fab bunch of people. People have been swimming here for decades, accessing the water from one of the public footpaths, but in recent years signs have been erected by the estate warning swimmers not to enter the lake. Outside of the summer months, when there can be blue green algae, the lake is a wonderful place to swim. A local who has grown up swimming there says: “It should, as it once was, be a fantastic public amenity for the people of Tisbury and the surrounding area. It is time for people to re-claim their right to swim here.”

Swimmers in a lake, trees behind and a boathouse on the far shore, classical pillar in the foreground Fonthill Lake, Wiltshire
Swimmer in front of lake with placard reading ‘We Have the Right to Swim’; swimmer at lake with placard reading ‘Go Swimming’ (two images combined) Lynford Water, Norfolk; Glen Faba, Hoddesdon, Herts

Lynford Water, Norfolk

I couldn’t get to one of the other trespass swims, so settled for a solo swim here (a rare place it is allowed). I think it disgraceful how many places that the public are not allowed access to or swimming is not permitted. I believe we should have free access to all lakes, rivers & reservoirs in the UK, and that the authorities need education on allowing swimming.

Glen Faba, Hoddesdon, Herts

One of many lakes so suitable for swimming within easy reach of London but with a blanket ban. Hoping for a revival of the Campaign for Swimming in Lee Valley Lakes (FB).

Normanton, Rutland reservoir, Rutland

A paddle by the church after a rather secretive trespass swim in a nearby bay. Although there is a free public swim place the times and depth are restricted, and the organised venue and events only serve a few at limited times. Others are beginning to swim in this reservoir and by the iconic church, and hopefully more will do so, perhaps emboldened by seeing Rachel Andrews’ YouTube video of her swim there.

Church on promontory into reservoir, with very clear water and colourful stony shallow beach Normanton, Rutland reservoir

Guildford, Surrey Sadly unable to swim due to sewage pollution but we still protested!

A Nottinghamshire gravel pit A trespass swim to assert the right to swim.

Waterswallows quarry, Buxton, Derbyshire Short trespass swim in the stunning clear cold water.

Swimmer with placard reading ‘We Have the Right to Swim’ in front of river Guildford, Surrey
Swimmer in red Outdoor Swimming Society hat in lake; two swimmers in front of a quarry with placard reading ‘We Have the Right to Swim’, very blue water and sky Notts gravel pit; Waterswallows, Derbys.

Bawsey Lakes, West Norfolk

The April monthly swim at Bawsey’s Brickyard Lake was in solidarity with the Right to Swim call at Kinder and beyond. These beautiful and suitable lakes are in a public country park near a large town in an area with few inland swim places. Every month swimmers meet there to give people confidence to do so, and to challenge the aggressive and unnecessary No Swimming signage. We post information to challenge the negative messaging and counter the misinformation. In time the landowner will realise swimming is not going to go away. Confidence is growing and many have now experienced swimming here, been impressed, spread the word, and returned to swim again.

16 swimmers standing along the edge of the sandy beach holding placards reading “Be Water Aware”, “Go Swimming” and “We Have the Right To Swim” Bawsey, Norfolk
3 swimmers standing along the edge of the sandy beach holding placards reading “Go Swimming” and “We Have the Right To Swim” Bawsey, Norfolk
Two children and one swimmer standing along the edge of the sandy beach holding placards reading “Go Swimming” and “We Have the Right To Swim” Bawsey, Norfolk
swimmers in the water at Brickyard Lake and three on shore, cliff rising behind the water, rescue equipment with ‘No Swimming’ signage Bawsey, Norfolk

Inspiring us to assert our Right to Swim

The stories and images sent in from the nationwide swims on or around the Kinder Swim Trespass 28 April 2024 show an impressive number of protests and swimmers across the country. I hope that this will inspire many swimmers and groups of swimmers to Go Swimming, to carry on swimming, to start doing swims, to do regular swims – whether that is annually in late April, monthly as at Bawsey, or at any other time or frequency we like. We can claim and assert our Right to Swim in a responsible way and in every water body that is suitable. The Right to Swim is a joyful, powerful and unstoppable movement!

Resources for the Right To Swim