Have a trespass wild swim! 28 April if you can, or any other time

Swimmers often have to trespass when they swim because there are so many places swimming is not allowed inland that otherwise they wouldn’t get many swims! So here are some things to consider to be safe, responsible and have fun when swimming somewhere you are not ‘allowed’, with some ideas and resources on calling for the Right to Swim.

Do it 28 April and join others all across the country! Or do it any time and share #RightToSwim

(You can download this as a Note (Word.docx, 3 pages)).

Have a swim or dip or paddle your feet:

  • as part of a walk or run or cycle, or to just go for a swim
  • just for fun, to be able to swim inland, or to call for a Right to Swim
  • on your own or in a group, or with your local swim group or Right to Roam group

Why?

  • It’s fun to do, and adds interest to a walk
  • It’s a great outdoor activity – healthy, affordable, fun
  • It’s a great way to see nature close-up (responsibly)
  • Extra opportunities to pick up litter in water (with care)

Outdoor swimmers do this it all the time, as there are so many places swimming is not allowed inland that otherwise they wouldn’t get many swims!

Do it to call for a Right to Swim, and to highlight access issues:

  • about lost/precarious/unavailable access to water
  • in general or focus on a particular place where there are current issues
  • open access land (CROW legislation) does not allow swimming
  • even if the land allows public access that doesn’t usually extend to the water
  • access to rivers can be complex and contentious, though we should assume we do have access to the water
  • many lakes are private when on private land
  • quarries and reservoirs are just lakes, but seem to invite particular reluctance
  • unnecessary exclusion and restrictions because of fears, misunderstandings, misinformation

Where?

  • Join the local swim group or find local swimmers – generally on Facebook and other social media – and they will know some of the places to go or where some are reluctant to go but would like to
  • Places that are suitable or have issues to raise will vary around the country
  • Rivers – issues about being in the water, and getting to it
  • Lakes – often found in private estates
  • Quarries – can be found in large numbers in some regions (East Anglia, the Midlands…) often not public access, or not to the water, but can be suitable
  • Reservoirs – all over the country, concentrations such as in Yorkshire where there are limited alternatives to swim, can be very suitable for swimming

When?

Who?

  • Anyone can paddle their feet, dip or swim, but need to assess their own ability, the place and the conditions, and pick up some safety tips if not done it before – local swim groups can help
  • Going in a group can give confidence to swim where you are unnecessarily told not to
  • All take responsibility for their own safety or for their children or dependants

How? Key points for assessing a place:

  • Access to water – is there a clear entrance into the water where you can safely enter without damaging the bank or disturbing wildlife?
  • Can you get out safely, even if you are cold, when muscles might not work as well?
  • Water depth, currents (throw in a stick to check), obstructions, water quality
  • Does the area have any specific environmental protections in place, or issues to be aware of? (Research SSSIs, wildlife/conservation organisations – does not necessarily rule it out but be aware); Nesting birds (particularly in spring and summer); Fish breeding/spawning (gravel shoals and riffles especially between autumn and spring). 
  • Is it a busy waterway – will you meet anglers/boaters/paddlers?
  • Any pre-existing tension around wild swimming in the area? Not a reason to avoid, but be aware. Be careful not to put too much pressure on already popular swim spots at busy times – unless they are suitable for larger numbers. 

What to consider on your swim:

  • Check the water before you get in – even if you’ve been before
  • bring what you need, usually at least one extra layer (even in summer)
  • don’t stay in too long, don’t get too cold, and warm up after
  • follow the Outdoor Swimmers Code
  • in a group, all take their own responsibility for their decisions and for their safety
  • entering water can be trespass even if you are allowed on the land – a civil matter, not criminal or illegal, unless you do damage or are abusive or disrupt lawful activity

If challenged:

  • stay calm and polite, explain that you are doing no harm and are being responsible
  • refer to the Outdoor Swimmers Code to dispel concerns about responsibility, safety, respect

Resources

  • If you are calling for better access – print and use these placards, or make your own. If you can, laminate them, people can put in front of their faces if they want to be anonymous!

Download red A5 placards to print: Text: “Go Swimming. OSS & Right to Roam”: www.imogensriverswims.co.uk/blog/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/Go-Swimming-2xA5-sign-oss-rr-to-print-150.pdf – OR – Download a choice of black-and-white Right to Swim placards to print from this post, https://www.outdoorswimmingsociety.com/kinder-swim-trespass-for-28-april-2024/ – OR – if you are quick – order large placards from the same post.

21 of the swimmers standing along the edge of the sandy beach holding placards reading “Go Swimming”

Please note: all swims and paddles are always at our own risk. Including a location on this website 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. Please be aware that the level of risk can change over time, depending on a range of variables such as temperature, weather, time of day or night, personal fitness, and level of fatigue – and so each of these variables will need to be considered by an individual before making their own personal decision on whether to swim, where to swim, and for how long. There is Swim Safety info on this website, and on Outdoor Swimming Society website, Survive section. Please follow the Outdoor Swimmers Code. I accept no liability for the choices that people make. This website is not produced by an organisation, commercial or otherwise, and I am not assuming any legal responsibility for those who read the website, and to the maximum extent permissible by law I exclude all liability in the event of injury or other loss.