Access & legality

The Outdoor Swimming Society has published this wonderful guide to access to inland beaches, with advice for landowners & managers, and anyone who wants to see more swimming in lakes, rivers, and other inland waters. Read about and download the OSS Guide to Inland Bathing Areas. (Link to download:

I have pulled together the legal issues in more detail, in this Page on Landowner liability and swimmers (and see key links bottom of this page)

See also Sixteen reasons why we need UK-wide swimming access in reservoirs on the OSS website, (also earlier version on this website)

and Swimming in clay and gravel lakes

Anyone interested in negotiating to improve access, or to protect existing access, or to get or share advice or info on this, is welcome to join and discuss in the Inland Access Group – Outdoor Swimming Society group on Facebook, at, or to contact the OSS Inland Access Officers at inlandaccess[at]

We need a Right to Roam in inland water in England and Wales – outlined very clearly by the Outdoor Swimming Society in Right To Swim: The OSS Manifesto and in this inspiring short film made at Kinder Reservoir in 2023, ‘A Right to Swim’ 

The Outdoor Swimming Society has joined 35 other outdoor organisations calling for ‘Outdoors for All’. Read about it on the OSS website, and download the Outdoors For All manifesto (PDF 3.3 megabytes)

Inland Access round up December 2022 on the OSS website, with examples and some general lessons,

Access also relates to disability,  as explained in this article,

Access and the legality of swimming is discussed on several websites – which take a variety of lines on the issue:

Outdoor Swimming Society: Is it legal?

On river access: The 3% access (to rivers) myth onThe OSS website (and I’ve written about it in this post, Is it only legal to swim in 3% of rivers in England?)

River Access for All website: Issues related to river access

The Right to Roam campaign

River and Lake Swimming Association (RALSA): The legal side and access

Watch online panel discussion on access and the right to swim with OSS and Right to Roam, hosted by Alpkit

This piece by swimmer Suzie Wheway illustrates why access and legality are problematic for swimmers: Breaking The Law To Swim,

This article, Inland water access = a safer society? by Suzie Wheway outlines how not having access has meant generations not getting the chance to learn swim safety,

My note on wild swimming and inland access,, building on an earlier post about swim safety,

This Metro piece illustrates the issues, Wild swimming is booming – so why is access such a nightmare?

And this in the Observer, In at the deep end: the activists plunging into the wild swimming campaign.

This detailed Telegraph article by Peter Stanford looks at all sides, Murky waters: the battle for our rivers, (also here) and this is also now on the Outdoor Swimming Society website,

British Canoeing,, including useful briefing note to download on Trespass. Read more about their campaigning and shared use of the water here,
Also worth listening to/watching this interview with BC’s Ben Seal, on ‎The Outdoors Station: No 536 – Clear Access Clear Waters, video,, or podcast,

See also my Note on bylaws and how they relate to swimming, bathing and outdoor activities (Downloads Word.docx 7 pages)

See brief note on PSPOs and challenging their use to stop swimming, (Downloads word.docx 2 pages)

Very useful organisations and their guidance (aimed at landowners/land managers and local authorities)

National Water Safety Forum’s (NWSF) Water Safety Principles (very useful pdf download) (based on landowner body VSG principles – see below).

Also useful, for local authorities, Local Government Association water safety toolkit,

RoSPA guidance, ‘Managing safety at inland waters guidance’ January 2019, has detailed advice on the law and practical guidance for landowners using case studies. Download from their website PDF (free),

Visitor Safety Group guidance, ‘Managing Visitor Safety in the Countryside: Principles and Practice’, (£20); see online key points from Chapter 2, ‘Guiding Principles’ (also used for NWSF principles, see above); and the intro to their guidance on open water swimming, Download the VSG Open Water Swimming guidance (Word.docx 11 pages).

swims and swim places, and related issues