The community aspect of swimming, in traditional and newer swimming places, was the theme of my latest swim safari, S.Lincs, N. Fens and Rutland, 12-15 July, the latest in my series of clusters of swims in East Anglia to mark becoming 60 this year. Please sponsor me if you would like to. I’m now planning the next one trip 9-12 August in the middle bits – Herts, Beds, and just into nearby counties … watch this space – Swims
Volunteers in local communities run and staff their outdoor pools, swimmers get together at various swimming spots and organised venues, and the online and social media swimming community – including South Lincolnshire Outdoor Temperature Hardened Swimmers (SLOTHS) and Fenland inland Swimming Herd FiSH – made many wonderful suggestions of places to swim.
Lincolnshire has six outdoor swimming pools. The community runs four of these, the other two are part of the local community, and all are meeting places for people.
They are much loved and valued, though really need more people to commit to volunteering – even if it is only an hour or two. Some of them have had to close sessions because people haven’t come forward.
The Facebook group, Community Pools and Lidos, is a very useful place for those running these facilities to share good practice and get ideas, but it really comes down to local people supporting them.
They all gave a warm welcome to me and other visitors from further afield. Lido touring is getting quite popular, helped by The Lido Guide.
Local swimmers recommended, and I was warmly welcomed to, Activities Away (listed on wild swim map) organised by Steve and Katie. This facility is valuable in an area without many places to go that are trouble-free.
Some of us did go on an adventure to a lake where swimming is not allowed, but many are not willing to do that. The Gildenburgh Water diving and swimming lake has a thriving community of divers and welcomes swimmers.
Rutland water bathing beach is a free inland lifeguarded beach that provides somewhere for people to swim without having to drive miles. I swam there with Robert (from the Outdoor Swimming Society’s Inland Access Group), who negotiated for years to get it established. It is one of the first and possibly the only one run by a water company! Parking charges pay for the lifeguarding.
There is a strong tradition of swimming in the Fens and surrounding areas, but many have forgotten how to do so. Although there are loads of waterways, mostly clean and very swimmable, sometimes it can be difficult to get into the water. Entry points can be hard to find, and anglers platforms might already be in use. Some traditional swimming places can be very busy, while others have been lost.
At Dog in a Doublet, local swimmer Sean has built a platform to make access easy, and he, Barbs and others are establishing a regular local swimming meet up, using their Facebook group to bring people together to swim at their own risk.
In Stamford I had a dip from the lovely Town Meadows, which would be ideal for people to enjoy splashing about. It would probably be frowned on and it isn’t easy to get in and out of the water. In the library’s Discover Stamford display I found a photo of swimmers at the old bathing place, which must have been near there. Just upstream there is a very popular place where young people swim and hang out (which Lofty told me about), and near it is a monument to the town’s spa history.
During my swim trek I swam with a number of other people, seeking out some places with Tina and Barbs, and being shown some great spots by Anthony and Helen.
Swimmers (including Lofty, Caroline, Vicky) gave me many useful suggestions of where to go, even if they weren’t able to join me. And my last swim was with someone who I met there; Liz joined me from her paddleboard as I walked along the bank looking for a suitable entry point.
And there were some swims I did alone. One from a fishing platform (not in use at that point) near the gloriously named Three Holes, where a kingfisher dived for fish. Another at Wansford Bridge, where I chatted to a couple of friendly young men angling nearby. And one in the sea north of Skegness at Anderby Creek, where horses were riding along in the shallows and a family including a unicyclist were enjoying the sandy beach at sunset.
The waterways provide recreation and community not just for swimmers. I met people fishing, paddleboarding, kayaking, in narrowboats, and walking, cycling and jogging, or just hanging out by the banks, as well as riding horses and unicycles by the sea. All share and enjoy these spaces, nearly always amicably and showing respect for each other.
Altogether I did 20 swims: six in outdoor pools/lidos, one in the sea, four in lakes, and 9 in six different rivers.
On my swim treks I have been inviting anyone to join me, to watch or to swim together at our own risk, at various places over a few days in different part of East Anglia/ East Midlands each month (see Swims, including reports from previous trips, and plans for the next ones).
I am inviting people to sponsor me if they would like to. The two charities are important to me in remembering my parents at the end of their lives four years ago.
[swim log 993-1012]