Bathing in the Brecks: Outdoor Swimming past, present & future, is outlined in this separate section of the website. We will discover the history and promote safe and environmentally friendly outdoor swimming in Breckland in two projects, Tales from the River and Healing Waters, part of the The Brecks Fen Edge & Rivers Landscape Partnership Scheme (BFER). These began in 2020, supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
Get Involved, Dates
Coming soon: details on the river survey and mapping strand of the project.
Provisional dates for 2022 events in the Healing Waters project – including swim intros, coaching and an event – are now on the page Outdoor swimming practical project dates.
Tales from the River project events
Training sessions in 2021 have been completed. For more info see this web page, Tales from the River Training July-Nov 2021, and for the latest on the Tales from the River project dates, see Swim history project plans 2021.
We are interested to hear if you have any Outdoor Swimming maps, info, photos or stories to share – please contact me if so.
Tales from the River will involve young people and adults in gathering and celebrating stories and folklore about outdoor swimming and other recreational use of the water in the Breckland rivers and other waters in the past and present.
Healing Waters will involve people in outdoor swimming with training to enjoy the waters safely and with care for the environment, and it will map and consider establishing and publicising suitable places for swimming or for other recreational uses of the rivers.
These 2 linked projects are part of The Brecks Fen Edge & Rivers Landscape Partnership Scheme, which has now succeeded in the bid for funding and will be supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Read about the whole BFER project in detail – download the full report and a map of the area.
Tour of Norfolk Record Office, Monday 8 November, Norwich. Tour by Karen Gaffney, Norfolk Record Office including how to access the archives and a look at the areas behind the scenes including a fascinating talk by Nick Sellwood about conservation and preservation of important records, and a chance to look at some fascinating and beautiful photos, drawings, diaries, maps and other documents relevant to the project.
Doing research and using the Suffolk Archives, Monday 1 November, Suffolk Record Office, Bury St Edmunds. The trainer, Hannah from Suffolk Archives, gave an introduction to the archives and the sort of records and work they do, did a tour of the strongroom and reading rooms, and showed us some very interesting and relevant documents, maps and photos from the collection. There were plenty of opportunities to ask questions and search the catalogue, and some discussion on following up and doing research at the Suffolk Archives, online and elsewhere.
Introduction to to Oral History Collecting, Tuesday 7 September 2021, Brandon Engine House, Brandon Country Park, IP27 0SU.
The trainers, Mandy and Hannah from Suffolk Archives, gave an introduction to oral history, issues and legalities to consider, how to plan, prepare and conduct an interview, using the equipment and a chance to practice. We also discussed project planning and how to organise gathering stories and oral history recordings on swimming and other river recreation.
Doing research and discovering the archives at Norfolk Record Office, Wednesday 7 July at Santon Downham Community Centre. The trainer, Victoria from Norfolk Record Office, outlined how to access the archives and do your own research, and illustrated this with examples of relevant documents/maps/material from the collection. We followed the training with a discussion on how volunteers can take the project forward and how we can organise doing some research and gather materials and stories on swimming and other river recreation. (The training reported in the BFER Newsletter 3.)
This was the first event in the project; more are planned. See above and Tales from the River project dates in Swim history project plans 2021.
12 September 2021 – Introduction to outdoor swimming: have a go, learn how to be safe and have fun. Families and children (morning) adults) afternoon).
Over 80 people, including 20 children aged 3-13, were introduced to swimming outdoors, understanding the risks and how to be safe and have fun. This was the last intro event this year, and the fourth in the project. It was held at Lynford Water public lake; event authorised by Forestry England. Volunteers and lifeguards gave an interactive briefing on safety and environmental issues, before everyone got in the warm water on a lovely sunny day. Read a report on the day.
15 August 2021 – Introduction to outdoor swimming: have a go, learn how to be safe and have fun for families and children
Qualified trainers and lifeguards, assisted by volunteers, introduced over 70 parents and children in the Brecks to swimming outdoors, understanding the risks and how to be safe and have fun. This was held at Lynford Water, authorised by Forestry England. Thanks to the 21 volunteers including three of our new open water lifeguards and the lifeguard team, and to everyone else who supported the event. Read a report of the event.
16, 23, 29 May 2021 Open Water Lifeguard training . Eleven successfully passed and are now qualified. It was held at Thorpe Woodlands, near Thetford, open to young people over 16 (by 29 May) living in or near the Brecks, who could swim 400 m fast in a pool and swim confidently under water, be competent and confident swimming outdoors, and who would be able to pass the theory and practical assessment. This will give career opportunities and the chance to volunteer on later outdoor swimming intro sessions in the project. Another two lifeguards who already worked as pool lifeguards were trained as OW Lifeguards and have joined the team.
Since the training lifeguards have volunteered and worked in the project and elsewhere, and some have told us about their experiences.
6 June 2021 – Introduction to outdoor swimming: have a go, learn how to be safe and have fun. Read a report on this event, in which qualified trainers and lifeguards, assisted by volunteers, introduced 100 people in the Breckland area to swimming outdoors, understanding the risks and how to be safe and have fun. This was held at Mildenhall Jubilee Fields, thanks to agreement from the Mildenhall High Town Council.
13 September 2020 – Nearly 50 people got in the water on a day of introduction to outdoor swimming; ‘have a go, learn how to be safe and have fun’, the first of these training events, which was very popular and successful. This was the first of these training events, in which qualified lifeguards supported by volunteers introduced people in the Breckland area to swimming outdoors and to understanding the risks and benefits. Read a report of the day.
More events are planned for 2022, and anyone interested can join our mailing list – Contact me and say you would like updates, or to hear about future events sign up for BFER updates and newsletter here.
Landowners and other participants marked places on the Brecks map where they owned or managed land and where they have swum, at a Landowner workshop 11 March 2020 at the start of the Healing Waters project – read about the workshop.
Download a report of the day (Word.doc 4 pages), which also includes more information on workshop organisers and speakers, and a list of resources and guidance.
Over spring and summer 2020 for the Swims section of my website I put together some resources for swimmers, those interested in the outdoors, and for landowners. These included activities, reading, audiovisual, links when staying at home to do with swimming https://www.imogensriverswims.co.uk/blog/online-resources-swim-advice-exercise-health/ , culture, heritage and nature, and gave regular updates on swimming and outdoor exercise under Covid 19 for swimmers and landowners. In addition I wrote this post on Drowning Prevention and this page on Landowner liability and swimmers. (All of these are not directly part of the projects, but could be of interest.)
There is a Facebook group, Outdoor Swimming in Breckland (not part of the projects). (Members of the group swam in and explored many swim spots in the area over a weekend in early October 2019. They liaise with local landowners and help with litterpicking and keeping an eye on swim places.)
@TheBrecksLP is the Brecks Fen Edge & Rivers Landscape Partnership Scheme Twitter account
Contact me if you would like to get updates, to get involved, or have any comments or questions, or contact the The Brecks Fen Edge & Rivers Landscape Partnership Scheme for questions on the wider set of projects.
You might find many of the other BFER projects of interest; they cover a wide range of issues across the area, including conservation, heritage, and much more. You can sign up for BFER updates and newsletter.
The Brecks project area
You can also see the area map on The Brecks Fen Edge & Rivers Landscape Partnership Scheme website