6 June 2021 outdoor swim intro

Discovering Outdoor Swimming in the Healing Waters of the Lark at Mildenhall: Report of 6 June 2021 second outdoor swimming introduction day, which gave nearly 100 people the chance to have a go, learn how to be safe and have fun.


Our second intro to outdoor swimming event took place on a gloriously warm and sunny Sunday, 6 June 2021, in the river Lark at Mildenhall Jubilee Fields, with kind permission of – and a warm welcome from – Mildenhall High Town Council.

Just under 100 people in 4 sessions were introduced to the joys of outdoor swimming and how to do it safely, as part of the Healing Waters project, one of The Brecks Fen Edge and Rivers Landscape Partnership Scheme projects, supported by the National Heritage Lottery Fund.

The water was warm, swans and their cygnets glided past, sedge warblers twittered, and the orange hatted dippers floated and swam in the sunshine. They came out buzzing with smiles on their faces, keen to take up the activity.

swimmers in river with swans
Swimmers and swans, river Lark Mildenhall,© BFER

The event targeted those who were new to or had not yet tried outdoor swimming, 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 24 volunteers and the lifeguards, with the team including some of the project’s newly trained lifeguards on their first outing. 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 first as an example and inspiration.

The event was welcomed on the day by Mildenhall’s Mayor, Jane Busuttil and by Deputy Mayor Ian Shipp, and by David Palmer from the River Lark Catchment Partnership (https://riverlark.org.uk/) which promotes conservation of the river and is also part of the BFER.

swimmers in river
Swimmers and lifeguards, river Lark Mildenhall © BFER

Safety of participants and volunteers was assured by risk assessment, lifeguarding, insurance cover, pre-event conditions and advice to participants on risks, cold and water quality. We tested the river 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 13 May and 27 May 2021 was ‘Excellent’.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.

Enthusiasm and applications for the event was high, 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 public park we talked to passers-by and spectators, who were very interested to hear about the project and the activity.

Many 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/.

More events are planned for 2021 and 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

swimmers in river
Swimmers and lifeguards, river Lark Mildenhall

We have followed up the event with detailed information to supplement that given on the day, about safety, risks, benefits, care for the environment, and 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 (not part of the project). The Note is available on this website (it is updated after each event, and has info that might be useful for all new to outdoor swimming).

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 a survey at the event and subsequently.

swimmers in river
Swimmers and lifeguard, river Lark Mildenhall

Selected feedback quotes:

“How fantastic to see such a good number of people interested in open water swimming at the Jubilee Field path into the River Lark in Mildenhall.  It was a very well organised event and we hope to welcome back the Healing Waters project in the future.  It was especially pleasing to hear that a number of life guards at this event were newly qualified.”

Jane Busuttil, Mayor Mildenhall High Town Council, @MayorMildenhall

“What a great event, I was really impressed with the enthusiasm of your swimmers who all appeared to thoroughly enjoy themselves. I must also say how professional your newly trained Lifeguards were and how happily they carried out their duties. And well done to you and all of your volunteers for organising and running such a successful event! I look forward to seeing more swimming in The Lark in the future.”

Ian Shipp, Deputy Mayor Mildenhall High Town Council

people talking
Mayor, Deputy mayor, BFER manager and lifeguards, river Lark Mildenhall © BFER

“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 coming together and so many people going off with big smiles on their faces, eager for their next swim.”

Imogen Radford, Healing Waters project lead

swimmers in river
Volunteers cooling off, with swimmers and lifeguards, river Lark Mildenhall © BFER

Selected quotes from participants and volunteers:

“I would just like to say a big thank you to all the organisers and volunteers at the event in Mildenhall today. Well organised and friendly. Now I have braved it, loved it I hope to try other places now.” Karen, participant

“Absolutely loved it. Walked past that spot my whole life and never considered I could swim in there. Very well organised and so many lifeguards! Thanks all.” Tracey, participant

“I really enjoyed the session and feel much more confident about linking up with others to swim locally. I don’t know how you managed to persuade the heron to fly over us and the swan to bring her cygnets along – that was the icing on the cake”! Bridget, participant, whose daughter Kate also enjoyed it.

“Had a great time, felt really safe and looked after for my first swim in a river. BIG THANKYOU!” Gill, participant, whose daughter Eliska was a volunteer and grandson Arthur one of the newly trained lifeguards.

“I had a brilliant introduction to outdoor swimming and am looking forward to doing more. Thanks everyone!” Vicky, participant

“Thank you for organising this introduction to wild swimming. It was exhilarating and calming at the same time. Perfect way to start what I hope will be many more wild swims.” Teresa, participant

swimmer entering river

I really enjoyed my day.  It was lovely to have a chance to share some of my experience and the volunteering opportunity also served to raise my self-esteem and wellbeing.  So success all round. Jo B, volunteer

Photo: Swimmers, river Lark Mildenhall © BFER

“So pleased people tried swimming and enjoyed it. Feedback was all positive with people really loving the day and leaving feeling confident enough to arrange a swim with more experienced swimmers. Many of the attendees commented on the friendliness, good advice and support given on the day. It was good to share my positive experience with attendees.” Rosie, volunteer

“It was our pleasure to introduce people to such a wonderful activity. So glad you enjoyed it.” Mandy, volunteer

swimmers in river
Swimmers, river Lark Mildenhall © BFER

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 also as a souvenir and a way of promoting the BFER.

BFER photos from the day are available here – https://flic.kr/s/aHsmVX2Ngq –for two months! You are welcome to download them – if you share them please credit BFER, @TheBrecksLP.

There are further photos here, https://flic.kr/s/aHsmVZQtq1, which if you share please credit/tag @ImogenRadford, @OSBrecks.

The River Lark Partnership brings together people who care about the river and volunteers who help to look after it, and welcomes new members, http://riverlark.org.uk/index.php/about/.

Changes are due to happen at the river here, as part of the BFER projects. Read more here, https://www.imogensriverswims.co.uk/blog/river-lark-and-mildenhall-changes-and-swimmers/.


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 Imogen or the BFER team to find out more.

Photo: Swim intro event, Mildenhall © 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 Imogen Radford if interested in getting involved.

The event was part of the Healing Waters project, supported by the National Heritage Lottery Fund, part of The Brecks Fen Edge and Rivers Landscape Partnership Scheme http://www.brecks.org/BFER/

Sign up for BFER updates and newsletter

swimmer in river with swans


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

Photo: Swimmer and swan, river Lark Mildenhall,© BFER

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