February Bawsey swim – sharing the swim love

Love for swimming, for Bawsey, why we come here to swim and why you can too

On Monday 12 February we met for a swim at Brickyard Lake to enjoy the glorious sunshine, to show our love for swimming, and to call for the Right to Swim for all who would also like to be able to swim here and in other inland lakes and waters. This post shows how people love swimming, and love swimming at Bawsey, and it answers concerns that might make swimmers nervous to come here.

The weather was wonderful with non-stop sunshine, and 17 people enjoyed swimming and dipping in the water and one supported from the beach. We made a very colourful and lively group. You can see more of our photos on Flickr.

The water is still rather cold at 6.7°, but we were not the only ones – a young man was dashing in and out of the water, having visited the site for the first time with his family on their way to see a fly past at Marham, and they loved it.

A group of Bluetits on tour brought a wonderful Valentines banner to celebrate their love of swimming. They put on it all their words for what swimming means to them, summing it up for everyone who goes swimming:

Love is… Sharing, Life Changing, Respect, Trust, Support, Liberating, Love, Inspire, Crazy, Care, Friendship, Hope, Happiness, Fun, Joyful, Freedom, Family, Togetherness, Strong, Bond, Belonging, Connected, Cake, Laughter, Closeness

Quite a few of the swimmers hadn’t been here before, as has happened at every swim, and they were much impressed with it. One aspect was that the route from the car park was very accessible by mobility scooter, as was the beach into the water, though there is a short stretch of soft sand between the track and the water. Most of us went to the café afterwards for chats, drinks and food, and enjoyed its welcoming wood-burning stove and staff.

First impressions from some of the swimmers:

  • My new favourite swim spot! We attended a peaceful protest today where we showed just how beneficial it can be for people to commune in nature and exercise with like-minded people. I can’t wait to come back again. Great to make some new swim buddies from the surrounding areas! #RightToSwim
  • A beautiful and laughter filled swim at Bawsey in Norfolk on Monday as part of a go swimming, right to roam and swim campaign. A lovely walk or scoot from a rather dingy car park that doesn’t prepare you for the most beautiful lake I have ever swum in, with beautiful clear water. The sun was shining, the water was a lovely 8c and it was stunning.
  • I’m always going to be up for a swim there as it’s so beautiful so meeting for a swim there would be fantastic.
  • Such an incredible place.
  • What a lovely day for our #titsontour outing. A gorgeous place for us to enjoy a get together and swim.
  • Could not have asked for a better day after all the rain. Today was about appreciating what our communal love of cold water brings to each of us.

Why come swimming at Bawsey?

It’s lovely and it’s suitable. You can see some of the reasons people love swimming here from some of the comments they made after this and previous swims – see November post and the Dereham Times 231123 article by reporter who came along to the November swim and talked to swimmers.

Why are swimmers meeting here to call for the Right to Swim?

Because it is a lake with public access to the beaches and is very suitable for swimming, and because we believe we need places to swim inland.

We need the Right to Swim inland…

  • to create an environment where outdoor swimming is seen as normal
  • so that people can learn about doing it safely from an early age, what the risks are and how to avoid coming to harm
  • so experienced swimmers can pass on their knowledge to those who are newer and be a positive influence
  • so people can take part in the popular, healthy, affordable, safe and enjoyable activity of outdoor swimming.

Why here?

We need the Right to Swim here because this part of West Norfolk is poorly served with inland swim spots. The sea is a distance away from where people live, and is less safe and often unsuitable due to tides or weather or pollution, the tidal rivers are also unsuitable, and rivers can be flooded and potentially polluted especially in the winter months. Lakes have far fewer risks.

The Brickyard Lake is ideal with its firm, gradually sloping sandy beach into shallow and then deeper water, and it is sheltered, warm in summer, clean, and free of the currents and tides that can be found in rivers and the sea. There is public access to the park and the lake, with footpaths and byways entering the site and the handy car park, café and track to the lake. The Great Lake is also very suitable, though less sheltered and much larger, and some beaches and entry points might have drops into deeper water from the gradual beaches.

Of course anyone getting into the water needs to be able to swim if they go further out, to stay very close to the shore if not, and any children or weak or nonswimmers need to be closely supervised by parents or carers. It’s best to get in carefully, not to stay in too long and get too cold, and to stay near the beach if not used to cooler water, and be aware that in both lakes away from the beaches there can be branches and obstructions on the wooded edges, and there is nowhere suitable in either lake for jumping into the water. With these sensible precautions anyone could swim, dip or paddle here safely.

These are the facts about these lakes. Many risks have been claimed for them, and many of those are ludicrously inaccurate. See the article on this website, Risks and Myths at Bawsey Lakes, which also gives more detail on how to stay safe. The lakes are no colder than any other lakes, and can be very warm in summer, though not usually quite as warm as an indoor swimming pool. There are no special factors that make them dangerous in any way, and they are safer than alternative outdoor swimming places such as the sea, tidal rivers or other rivers.

However, people have been fed a lot of myths and scaremongering over many years or decades, giving a misleading impression about this place and making some nervous about swimming here.

How can we answer concerns swimmers might have making them nervous to come here?

  • Most of the claimed risks are myths, and real risks can be avoided with sensible precautions and knowledge.
  • Many experienced swimmers have visited Bawsey and commented on how easy exit and entry is, how benign the place is, and how it has no more risk than anywhere else and fewer than many.
  • Like many places inland, swimming is not allowed; here the signage and messaging can be rather aggressive in tone and there can be some strongly expressed comments in local social media. We understand that landowners and others often have fears, so we’ve attempted to allay those in the January post: Chilly dip; Landowners concerns and in this page, Concerns and responses: November protest swim. The ‘No Swimming’ approach is often based on misunderstandings, so once we know that we can be more confident in swimming at our own risk.
  • Swimmers don’t want to have to face challenge or to upset anyone by swimming where they’re not allowed, but as it is not allowed in so many places – often without good reason – we sometimes have to do so in order to swim.
  • Swimmers always assess where we swim, how to get in and get out and swim safely, and understand what the risks are at a particular place. We often see signs that bear no relation to the reality, so ignoring those with inaccurate information is not an unreasonable response.
  • The wardens at Bawsey have to do their job in advising people of the no swimming policy, but the landowner and managers here (and elsewhere) know that they have no way to actually stop people getting in or make them get out of the water. The land is public access, and though getting into the water is technically trespass this is a civil matter, not criminal, not illegal, not a matter for the police, and not something that can easily be stopped – a landowner has to take someone to court and show that they have done some harm, and that is not practical to them to do.
  • Solidarity of numbers. It makes it a lot easier to go with others, so these get-togethers can be a good way to gain confidence to swim at Bawsey. In summer there can be many people in the water, making swimming much more of a norm than in colder months. Contact me through this website or social media if you’d like to be updated when swimmers are meeting.

Swimmers are meeting at Bawsey to show their support for The Outdoor Swimming Society’s Inland Access Manifesto calling for freedom to swim and the call from Right to Roam for a right to responsible access to land and water, as in Scotland. Read more about Wild Swimming and Access. To show that we need more access to swim, we suggest swimmers Go Swimming!

Location details: Bawsey Pits or Lakes

[Log 1720]