Lake District swimmers urged to #spreadthewordnottheweed

03rd July, 2020

As the outdoor swimming season cautiously gets underway, swimmers are being reminded to #spreadthewordnottheweed. The campaign, launched a few years ago, aims to raise awareness about the threat posed by invasive, non-native species of weed to some of the last remaining pristine lakes in England. A new film, below, highlights the problem and how swimmers can play a role in tackling it.  

These species of wildlife, such as New Zealand Pygmy Weed, can hitchhike on bodies, body hair, equipment, footwear, clothing and boats. This tenacity means that they may be inadvertently spread even by just going for a paddle. The new campaign particularly aims to protect the last three pristine lakes – Crummock, Buttermere and Wastwater – from the fate of those such as Derwent Water, which due to an invasion of the Pygmy Weed is sometimes unswimmable. 


Whether swimming, paddling, SUP boarding or kayaking, it is advised that every time you leave a body of water and every time you go from one body of water to another, the following advice is adhered to:

  • Check your equipment and clothing for living organisms. Pay particular attention to damp or hard to inspect areas.
  • Clean and wash all equipment, footwear and clothes thoroughly. If you do come across any organisms, leave them at the water body where you found them or on a hard surface to die out.
  • Dry all equipment and clothing. Some species can live for many days in damp conditions.

If you’re planning a swim/run/swim adventure, consider the order in which you travel. Go from the cleanest lakes, rivers and tarns first. For example: do not swim in Derwent Water, then Blackmoss Pot, then Buttermere, followed by Crummock.  Always travel from the cleanest body of water, so in this example it is essential to start in Buttermere, then go to Crummock, then Blackmoss Pot and end up in the dirtiest, which is Derwent Water.

Once at home, rinse all swimwear and equipment with fresh water and dispose of rinsing water onto the ground not down the drain or plughole. Once in the drainage system, invasive species can work their way into any body of water.  Swimsuits, once rinsed, can be washed in the washing machine.

If you are camping, rinse all gear in the body of water in which you swam, leaving organisms where they belong. Dry thoroughly before entering another body of water, or use clean, dry swimwear. Use bottled water to thoroughly rinse your body.

Sara Barnes