We held our fourth intro to outdoor swimming event (the last this year) in the glorious setting of the public lake at Lynford Water (at an event approved by Forestry England) on 12 September 2021.
Just over 80 adults, parents and children attended the four sessions during the day. Children aged 3 to 13 and their parents had fun and learnt about safety from volunteers and lifeguards in the morning, and adults did the same in the afternoon.
They had a go at outdoor swimming and were given some info on how to do it safely, as part of the Healing Waters project, one of The Brecks Fen Edge & Rivers Landscape Partnership Scheme projects, supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
The event was a great success on a glorious sunny day, with water at 20.5 degrees. The sandy beach was ideal for all ages, making getting in and out really easy.
The event was for those who had not yet tried outdoor swimming or were new and wanted to find out more about safety. Having the lifeguard cover and other support gave people confidence to try something new which they might not have done otherwise.
We had 25 volunteers, including two children and three of our recently trained open water lifeguards as part of the lifeguard team. Volunteers – local swimmers with a range of swimming experience and knowledge – took a key role in running the event, delivering an interactive briefing with participants before they got in the water, talking to participants, encouraging them, answering their questions, and getting in the water with the participants to pass on their experience and enjoy the water with them.
We ensured the safety of participants and volunteers by risk assessment, lifeguarding, insurance cover, pre-event conditions and advice to participants on risks, cold and water quality. We tested the water at the event venue for Bathing Water quality in advance of the session, using EU BWD aligned bathing water quality standards and an accredited UKAS lab, and the result of testing samples taken 5 September 2021 was ‘Excellent’ (with virtually negligible amounts of bacteria).
Participants learnt – at the event and in the information we provided – about keeping themselves safe, how cold could affect them and how they can cope, how to assess a place for swimming. It was clear that people were having fun, playing games, practising floating and enjoying the water, and feedback from the event in evaluation forms, emails and on social media has been very positive.
Outdoor swimming is a fun outdoors activity with benefits to mental and physical health, and is a great way to get close to nature. It’s getting more and more popular, especially as a way of staying nearer to home, but people don’t always have the have knowledge and confidence to participate and to do it safely. So the project aims to give people the chance to do this in a safe environment so that they can learn how to go and enjoy it for themselves. It was wonderful to see this falling into place and so many people enjoying it and getting something out of it.
We had high levels of interest and applications for the event, and we have added many people to our mailing list to hear about future events and to get other updates on the project and all of the BFER projects. At this event in a busy and popular place for recreation, we talked to passers-by and spectators, who were very interested to hear about the project and the activity. Some people have been in touch since who heard about it, wanting to have a go and get involved, and we’ve invited them to sign up to get updates and hear about future events, and also to see this page on the website, https://www.imogensriverswims.co.uk/blog/os-brecks-2/dates-set-healing-waters-swimming-project-beginning-2020/.
We have followed up the event with detailed information to supplement that given on the day, about safety, risks, benefits, care for the environment, in a note available on this website https://www.imogensriverswims.co.uk/blog/issues/z-more-info-on-outdoor-swimming-september-2020/. We also did a shorter version of this with the key info, Swimming and playing in water safely Q & A, also on the website, https://www.imogensriverswims.co.uk/blog/issues/swim-play-in-water-safely-q-a/.
We’ve also made available children’s activity sheets on being safe in water, kindly drawn up by one of our volunteers, which can be downloaded here, Learning To Be Safe In Water: Download Qs https://www.imogensriverswims.co.uk/blog/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Learning-To-Be-Safe-In-Water-childrens-activity-Qs.pdf and As https://www.imogensriverswims.co.uk/blog/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Learning-To-Be-Safe-In-Water-childrens-activity-As.pdf
In the detailed note we included some information on what options there are for further swimming and where you could do it, including by joining a local Facebook swim group, Outdoor Swimming in Breckland, https://www.facebook.com/groups/453608638711081/ (not part of the project).
A key purpose of the Healing Waters project and all of The Brecks Fen Edge and Rivers Landscape Partnership Scheme (BFER, http://www.brecks.org/BFER/) projects is to promote and to study the benefits of engaging with nature and outdoor activity. So we asked participants to take part in surveys at the event.
Just wanted to say thank you very much, again, for organising yesterday’s ‘intro’ sessions. I thoroughly enjoyed all but trying to get out of my costume whilst preserving my modesty! Thank you to you, and to all the volunteers and lifeguards that gave your time to run the sessions yesterday.
I just wanted to say thank you for organising such a great event. My friend and I really enjoyed this afternoon – a real mixture of people.
Just a quick e.mail to say how much we (2 parents 2 boys) enjoyed our swim with you at Lynford Lake on Sunday morning. Thank you to you, the lifeguards and all of the volunteers who spared the time to give us a chance to give wild swimming a try, we will definitely be joining you all again.
Had a great time today at the 130pm session – thank you to everyone involved. We had a brilliant time, volunteers were great as were the lifeguards, excellent organisation and so much knowledge. Definitely converted one person who was scared of the water monsters & sharks. Also got to meet some lovely people.
It was a lovely morning, glad me and my daughter went. Thank you
We loved it so much! Great to meet other parents with children enjoying outdoor swimming and exploring the water!
Thank you to you all, we all totally enjoyed it and will certainly be seeing some of you again for our next family wild swimming adventure.
We attended the family session on Sunday morning and had a great time, thanks so much to all the organisers, lifeguards and volunteers. A really fun, informative and enjoyable session. Thank you!
We had a fab time, have been wanting to do it for soooo long and now looking forward to joining some of you for swims.
A big thank you for impeccable team + personal experience. Fabulous afternoon. Confidence, Safety awareness, boosted…. Pure Joy.
It was life changing!
Just a little message to say Thank you very much for organising the swim today. Met some fabulous people in a gorgeous location…. I’m hooked.
Learnt that swimming is fun
How amazing it is to spend time in open water
The brief and demonstrations were informative and enough not to be overloaded.
Green blobs were cute!
(The green blobs were Ophrydium versatile, https://askanaturalist.com/what-are-these-green-jelly-blobs/, which are a good indication that the water is clean.)
6 year old with green blobs and freshwater mussel shell at Lynford Sep event
A brilliant event as usual! It’s good to see new people enjoying the water and learning how to do it safely.
Swimmer from another region:
Brilliant stuff; we all know how important knowledge about, and joy in the open water is, but you’ve actually put that into action. Thanks to everyone involved.
And head lifeguard:
Giving people in #Breckland @BreckCouncil area the chance to #enjoywatersafely & #StaySafe Great to see so many #swimmers of all ages.
The trainer and lifeguarding team, David Ebbs and his colleagues, who will be working with us throughout the project on other events, are on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/EbbsEbbs
The company we use for water quality testing, Swim Safety (https://swim-safety.co.uk/) provides water quality testing and analysis services for a large number of open water swimming and triathlon events and venues in the UK.
Practicing starfish floats
BFER printed swim hats from www.swimprint.com were provided to all participants and volunteers, partly for visibility for the lifeguards and as a souvenir and a way of promoting the project and BFER.
We are grateful for the help and authorisation of the landowner for the venue, Forestry England and their Thetford Forest staff.
The team of volunteers who helped were essential in helping to run the event. There are opportunities to volunteer in this and other BFER projects – get in touch with me or the BFER team to find out more.
More info on the project, https://www.imogensriverswims.co.uk/blog/os-brecks-2/, and about future dates, https://www.imogensriverswims.co.uk/blog/os-brecks-2/dates-set-healing-waters-swimming-project-beginning-2020/. Contact me if interested in getting involved.
Imogen Radford, Healing Waters project lead, imogen36[at]googlemail.com; @OSBrecks
The Brecks Fen Edge & Rivers Landscape Partnership Scheme, bfer.admin[at]suffolk.gov.uk; @TheBrecksLP