Exploring Bawsey Pits

We had heard a lot about this supposedly dangerous lake, and another experienced outdoor swimmer and I went to explore it and assess the risks and the possibilities for swimming there. We found it to be a wonderful location and from this visit couldn’t see any more hazards than in other similar lakes, other than the usual risks of swimming which can be mitigated with accurate information. But anyone visiting must do their own assessment each time, and take care. And if anyone has any specific information about unusual risks at this location it would be interesting to hear about those.

My friend had been there in the summer with some friends and their toddler and found it to be a perfect location for families, well worth spending a day (even at £15 for all day parking).

lake and trees and beaches
Great Lake, west

These supposedly dangerous lakes in West Norfolk are popular in summer, but have a No Swimming policy fiercely and doggedly publicised by its owners. We found it to be a wonderful swim venue and we couldn’t see any obvious risks beyond the usual ones. There might be some more detailed knowledge about specific, unusual or other risks specific to this location, and I’d be interested to hear this.

Emergency information sign at Brickyard Lake

Many locals have for many years believed that this place is particularly dangerous, and there are understandable sensitivities because people have died. There have been four deaths in three incidents over the last eight years, which appear to have been from such causes as cold incapacitation, or falling off an inflatable into deep water, or from attempting to rescue another swimmer in trouble, rather than for reasons specific to these lakes. Any deaths, whether swimming or doing something else, are tragic and it is important to find ways to prevent them. However education and information about the real risks are likely to be a more effective way to help prevent such tragedies, and would work much better than a fruitless attempt to stop the unstoppable, as well as enabling the large local population to enjoy this healthy and generally safe activity (when done safely and with knowledge).

If there was regular swimming by responsible swimmers that would show that swimming can be done safely and that working with swimmers can benefit landowners, and hopefully eventually lead to them recognising this. It would also enable some more detailed risk assessment, for example perhaps using divers to see whether there are obstructions or anything dangerous under the water.

no swimming signage and lake
No swimming signage at Brickyard Lake

After a quick look at the mirrorlike water in the Brickyard Lake which reflected the trees on the cliff behind it, my friend and I walked all the way round the amazingly scenic Great Lake, admiring the sandy beaches, shallow and gradual entries into the water, the glorious vistas across the water, and the noisy geese honking as they landed by the island. We met several friendly walkers and dog walkers, though it was quiet on a weekday.

lake and beach
Great Lake, west

By the time we got back to the Brickyard Lake it was raining, but still lovely, relatively warm compared to rivers in mid-October, easy to walk in on the sandy beach, with clear and clean water.

Brickyard Lake

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit (Oct 2021), and think it would be lovely at any time of year, though it is bound to be quieter over the winter. It looks as if it would be a fantastic place for anyone wanting to train or do long-distance swims, or for those wanting a quick dip or to bring their family of any age, obviously checking carefully first and keeping themselves and any children safe. Please note that I am NOT recommending this as a safe place, nor do I ever recommend anywhere as a ‘safe’ place as there is no such thing. Every place has potential risks and every swimmer should always assess for themselves every single time they swim.

Five of us visited in the Great Lake in early November 2021, with its sandy beach and clear water, and picked up some litter from the water and beach. We could see no evidence of any unusual risks.

no swimming signage
Signage leaving the main car park in the direction of Brickyard Lake

There are a large number of No Swimming signs around the site and by and in the water, and there is potential for challenge by members of the public or staff. But some might consider it worth facing this for the beauty of the place and the delightful swimming.

It’s possible to pay for parking by the hour, or a half hour visit for free is possible. Or you might explore walking in on one of the footpaths. We don’t know what wardens would say to swimmers. Please see discussion on legality, safety and landowner strategies – ideally involving swimmers – on the Bawsey Pits location page.

Location details and discussion of issues: https://www.imogensriverswims.co.uk/blog/places/bawsey-pits/

no swimming signage in lake
No swimming signage at Brickyard Lake
swimmer with Go Swimming sign in front of No Swimming sign at lake
At Brickyard Lake in May 2023

Please note: all swims are at our own risk. Including a location does not indicate that it is recommended or that it is safe; each must do their own risk assessment each time they swim or travel to a location. I accept no liability for the choices that people make. There is Swim Safety info on this website, and on Outdoor Swimming Society website, Survive section, including this on quarries, https://www.outdoorswimmingsociety.com/understanding-flooded-quarries/. Please follow the Outdoor Swimmers Code.

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