Report of 15 August 2021 third outdoor swimming introduction day, which gave over 70 parents and children the chance to have a go, learn how to be safe and have fun.
We held our intro to outdoor swimming event in the glorious setting of the public lake at Lynford Water (at an event approved by Forestry England) on 15 August 2021.
Just over 70 people in 4 sessions attended our family and children sessions – 33 parents, 40 children, of which 33 were aged 3-12 and seven were 13-16. 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 warm water (over 20°) and the lovely sandy beach and the mostly sunny day meant that although some of the children found it a bit cold, most had fun and came out with smiles on their faces, even those a little bit nervous before they went in. And several said they were keen to do it again.
The event was for those who had not yet tried outdoor swimming or were new and wanted to find out more, and the lifeguard cover and other support gave people confidence to try something new which they might not have done otherwise.
The day was a great success thanks to the 21 volunteers and the lifeguards, with the team including some of the project’s newly trained lifeguards. Volunteers – local swimmers with a range of swimming experience and knowledge – helped in the practical running of the event and talking to participants, encouraging them, answering their questions, and getting in the water with the participants to chat, pass on their experience and enjoy the water with them.
We made sure that participants and volunteers were safe 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 2 August 2021 was ‘Excellent’. Because there was a report of a very small amount of blue green algae, on 9 August we also sampled and had the results analysed for this, and these came back as having found no trace of this algae, and instead only a variety of algae that are beneficial and show how clean the water is.
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. People clearly enjoyed the day, coming out of the water with smiling faces, 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/. 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.
Selected feedback quotes:
“Thank you for a fabulous experience. I very much enjoyed this with my son. The volunteers and organisers at these events are always brilliant, so friendly and put you at ease if you are feeling nervous.” S.
“…just wanted to say myself and P absolutely loved today’s swimming, For me to overcome a fear of fish swimming near me, I’m so happy, All your colleagues were so approachable, friendly, helpful,
We had the best time ever and can’t wait to get back in the lake, now we know how to safely. Thank you for organising, we really enjoyed it. L.
“I have just joined some of the Facebook groups as we all loved the swim event. Thank you to everyone who made the experience possible and gave up their valuable time to share their skills and give assistance. Inspired by watching me with our little girl (8yrs old) last week, my partner took our daughter back again yesterday to the lake so that he could have a go!!! They both got in in the rain and loved it! I feel really excited and grateful that I might be able to learn about new places to swim and perhaps join others to do so in the future near to where I live. I suffer with Fibromyalgia and wonder if this could be my saving grace….” J.
“It was a lovely experience for me and my grandson H. He wants to do it again with a wetsuit. Thank you.” T.
“Thank you so much for organising: my son and I really enjoyed it and I’m planning my next visit already.” KS.
“Built confidence to continue outdoor swimming. Will definitely do it again. Prior to the session I was really apprehensive but loved it. T.
“I really enjoyed the experience and am looking forward to my next swim.” A.
“Thank you for organising, we really enjoyed it.” K.M.
“We had a great time! Thanks so much.” E.
“I had a lovely day today. Thanks again for including us, it’s great to be part of the crew, to do ‘stuff’ you really want to see delivered. People were so happy.” L.
“Brilliantly organised.” T.
And head lifeguard:
“Another great day with my #OpenWater #lifeguard crew today at #LynfordLake as part of @OSBrecks & #TheBrecksLP project to ensure people #enjoywatersafely this #summer”
Lifeguards relaxing © BFER
BFER photos from the day are available here – https://flic.kr/s/aHsmWv5vmX – for two months. If you download and share them please credit BFER, @TheBrecksLP.
There are further photos here – https://flic.kr/s/aHsmWwa147 – which if you share please credit/tag @ImogenRadford, @OSBrecks.
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.
Taking a sample to test bathing water quality, photo Clare Angel
We are grateful to the help and authorisation of the landowner for the venue, Forestry England and their Thetford Forest staff.
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
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.
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.
Lynford event © BFER
More information about 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 Contact me if interested in getting involved.
More events are planned for 12 Sept 2021 and for 2022. Sign up to get involved in the project – Contact me and say you would like updates – or to hear about future events in this or other projects sign up for BFER updates and newsletter here.
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
The event was part of the Healing Waters project, within The Brecks Fen Edge & Rivers Landscape Partnership Scheme (BFER), supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.