Bawsey November swim trespass

On Sunday 19 November a varied group of outdoor swimmers and dippers gathered together to have a swim at the Brickyard Lake. We did this to show it can be done safely and to call for a Right to Swim to create an environment where outdoor swimming is seen as normal so that people can learn about doing it safely. The park warden attended to monitor and had a chat with our spokesperson, and a reporter from the local press attended and talked to several of us. The weather was not bad at all, water chilly at 8.9° with a bit of a breeze – what we would expect at this time of year – and 18 people got into the water, with 8 on the shore.

Swimmers standing in a lake in swim costumes, holding placards saying “Go Swimming”, sandy beach, wooded cliff behind them
Swimmers and dippers call for the Right to Swim

It was a lovely afternoon, and those present felt that it put across our points well and showed that people can swim in November. A few people came for the first time and were very impressed, so we also showcased this beautiful park. A small group of us had a walk all round the stunning Great Lake, and it was very breezy at Bawsey Bay. We had some glimpses of late afternoon sun and two people paddled and one swam in water that was 9° with pH4.5. (At the Brickyard Lake the pH is neutral).

Swimmers and dippers call for the Right to Swim, photo by Norm; Making a splash in Brickyard Lake  

In advance of this swim there was much discussion, with some concerns being expressed and our point of view also being included in local newspapers, radio and TV: BBC Look East 171123 Lunchtime item; Radio Norfolk 171123 Breakfast Imogen interviewed; BBC Radio Norfolk 171123 Breakfast local councillor interviewed; Eastern Daily Press, 151123; Lynn News, 161123.

Dereham Times 231123 article by reporter who came along to the November swim and talked to swimmers.

More on the key points raised on this page, Concerns and responses: November protest swim.

In summary, we believe that it is possible to swim safely at Bawsey Lakes with accurate knowledge, and most of the concerns raised are based on inaccurate information and understanding of outdoor swimming and water safety. We want to prevent any further tragedies and to help people know how to stay safe, and this can be better achieved by a change in policy and better access to relatively harmless waters. We invite those with whom we share the aim of keeping people safe to a discussion to see if there are any areas on which we could work together.

Read more  on this page, Concerns and responses: November protest swim. And see detailed information about risks at this location and how to stay safe, on this website, Risks and Myths at Bawsey Lakes.

Gathering for a briefing and discussion before their swim; Some of the swimmers in Brickyard Lake

Those who met at the lakes went to have an enjoyable day out and to call for the Right to Swim – as outlined by Right to Roam – we need  a right to responsible access to land and water, as in Scotland, and to support The Outdoor Swimming Society’s Inland Access Manifesto calling for freedom to swim. Read more about Wild Swimming and Access. To show that we need more access to swim, we urge swimmers to Go Swimming!

A post swim selfie as swimmers warm up after their swim, photo by Tracey; Swimmers discuss the issues on a walk by the Great Lake

Swimmers shared their impressions after swimming at Bawsey – some of them for the first time:

I attended the swim today, was a great time in good company. There are many horror stories about Bawsey, a lot are untrue or made out to be far worse than the actual risks. I have been swimming in these lakes for the last 20 years and have never at any point felt unsafe. As a member of the UK cliff diving community (who wouldn’t dive here) I honestly find the fact that people find these lakes so dangerous quite absurd. Stu

A fabulous swim spot. Chilly but great water clarity. A super and swimmy afternoon with a lovely group of open water swimmers. As an experienced swimmer I can confirm that the location is ideal for swimmers. Publicly accessible via a network of well-connected footpaths. For locals places to safely leave bicycles, for drivers a local car park with a refreshments kiosk and toilets. The lake at Bawsey is a very safe for swimmers with easy access and egress. It is only unsafe to those who are either unable to swim (so don’t go in) or incapable of swimming. There are many benefits of swimming in such places to the swimming community – a growing trend – and swimmers respect their environment and take responsibility for their safety. It’s essential that every person in the UK should be able to swim. Sadly it’s reported that less than 1 in 2 adults can swim 200m without stopping and as a swimming teacher I can confirm that dreadful underfunding of schools has severely cut schools swimming lessons too. Bryn

Thermometer reading 8.9°

Thank you for spearheading the Right to Roam. Discovering the natural beauty of Bawsey has been sublime. Jean

I’m an experienced outdoor swimmer and swam at Bawsey today. Over the years I’ve swum hundreds and hundreds of times in every type of body of water and in water in every state – very cold ice swims, fast-flowing rivers, etc. I would not consider swimming anywhere I deemed unsafe for me and Brickyard Lake is one of the safest places I’ve ever swum, in all senses. Indeed I can’t think of a safer place to swim. All the swimmers today were experienced swimmers and none would have swum had they deemed it to be unsafe. Most sensible outdoor swimmers swim safely in bodies of water in which they are out of their depth. I dived down (from the surface of the water) as far as I could several times today and there was no sign of any weeds whatsoever; even in summer when weeds are more prolific they pose no danger providing you observe a few sensible rules.The water today was clear and clean – and yes deep once you swam out into it from the shore. No safety issues whatsoever with getting in and out spots, which we all know is a really important thing for open water swimmers. Swimming in the UK in winter is always cold. Sensible educated swimmers gradually acclimatise and reduce time spent in the water in winter accordingly. We need much more info and advice out there to prevent further tragedies. Rather than banning people from swimming in certain spots, because people always have and always will swim outdoors, it’s far better to educate them in outdoor swimming safety because they’re going to swim anyway, so best they learn how to do so safely. We need to educate as many people as possible about swimming safely in order that risks are absolutely minimised. Our swim today did no harm to any of us and did no harm to the venue or the lake. Indeed it did us all an awful lot of good. Deb

Fantastic, well done all you people that chose to turn up and swim. Norm

Thank you all for making happy memories. Tracey

Great day today, hopefully see you all at a future swim! Ross

Fabulous – really enjoyed it & looking forward to our next swim together. Many thanks for all the information. Susie

Thank you everyone, it was a great afternoon. What a beautiful place and a friendly bunch! Danya

Entering Brickyard Lake, photo by Norm; Paddlers call for the Right to Swim and to paddle at the Great Lake, laughing at the cold on their feet

Swimmer lying in the shallow water with placard saying “Go Swimming” and a large lake behind her
Swimmers call for the Right to Swim at the Great Lake

Location details for Bawsey Lakes (or Pits)