Outdoor swimming practical Dates & Updates

Healing Waters, a practical project to promote safe outdoor swimming in Breckland, is part of The Brecks Fen Edge & Rivers Landscape Partnership Scheme (BFER), supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. See Summary of the project.

It began with a landowner meeting in March, held the first intro to outdoor swimming session in Sept 2020, three events in 2021, three swim intros, a coaching tips session and a swim event in 2022, and two events, including intro to lifesaving, in 2023. See Previous events reports and updates.

Future dates

8 September 2024, Brandon Staunch, swim intro sessions for adults and 13 plus and for people with additional needs.

22 September 2024, two guided swim walks, in Thetford and Brandon. More on this below.

14 March, 11 April, 16 May, 11 September, guided river history walks, details and booking will appear on the Swim history project plans page.

The September events are part of the Brecks Outdoor Festival, which will give chances to take part in a whole range of activities.

Swim Walks

Swim walks or runs can be an interesting thing to do once you have started outdoor swimming, and can build skills of risk assessing water entry points. Read more about swim walks on this website. We now have a date for two of these, details and booking to follow. For inspiration you could read the original Swim Walks book online, with walks reached by public transport from London, buy the book, or join the Swim Walks Facebook group. Information on finding places to swim in the Brecks and elsewhere on this website.

Another strand of the Healing Waters project is river survey and mapping – surveys of the rivers and waters of the Brecks to identify suitable places for swimming and other recreation.

young women on edge of pool; two swimmers doing crawl in a river
Young swimmers; river swimmers

Previous events

13 March 2024 – project stand at the BFER Wellbeing Festival run by volunteers was colourful and popular with people interested to find out about outdoor swimming and to have a go themselves or to refer people to an activity well known to be very beneficial for health and well-being. I did a short illustrated talk about the joys and benefits, how we have been introducing people to it in the project and how swim groups can be a good place for people to start and to become part of a welcoming community (download slides (PDF 20 pages) and notes (Word.docx 3 pages), also leaflet with a list of local swim groups (download A5 PDF 2 pages), see also list on this website). See some photos from the day. And read about the day on the BFER website.

20 August 2023 – Intro to basic life-saving for families and children, youth groups & adults; Adult and 13+ Intro to outdoor swimming, at Brandon Staunch (agreed by Environment Agency and Brandon Remembrance Playing Fields). With a warm welcome from everyone at Brandon (where we coexisted with local people having fun swimming, jumping, boating and fishing), and access to the social club for refreshments and facilities. We had 81 people taking part during the day, of which 34 were children aged 5-15. They learnt lots of really useful skills and enjoyed themselves. Volunteers made the day go with a swing, along with the lifeguards and trainers. Selected feedback from participants: Feeling more confident about my safety and how to help others. Really well organised, lovely water. Good mix of practical and theory. It was fantastic. Thank you to all of you who made it possibly for newbies. From cubs and beavers group volunteer: We all had a fabulous time, the children and grownups alike all learned a wealth of important skills. Selected feedback from volunteers: Thank you for organising the day. I was so happy to see the 70yr old grandma who absolutely loved her experience. I had a wonderful day! So nice to be able to get in and out of the water and also help out with the event! Lots of positives and thanks and the kids said they had fun! Best photos here on Flickr, https://flic.kr/s/aHBqjASxYE, and see album list for see selections for each session.

27 July 2023 – Project stall at Forestry England’s High Lodge Open Day was very successful. Nearly 200 people, over half of them children, came to see our display, to do the water safety quiz (you can download this from webpage, Q&A with key info on swimming safely) and play games, marked their swim or walk or other activity spot on our Brecks heat map, and heard about our next event. Photos in 2 albums on Flickr.

2 July 2023 – Introduction to outdoor swimming: have a go, learn how to be safe and have fun – sessions for adults, youth groups, families. 80 people, half of which were children aged between six and 16, came to have a go at swimming outdoors and learn about doing it safely. All took part in an interactive briefing while dipping their toes, then immersed in the warm water (20.4°). Despite the chilly breeze everyone had great fun swimming, playing games and practising starfish floats. Many said that they would be doing lots more outdoor swimming, having been given confidence by the day. Volunteers helped run the event and talk to participants, and lifeguards kept them safe. Feedback included: Thank you so much for the open water swimming introduction experience that you provided today. We all enjoyed it very much and the girls have asked when they can attend again! (Youth group leader). A big thank you to all the lovely volunteers for making today’s swim session possible. Looking forward to the next adventure! It was great to meet so many amazing people today. (Adult participant). Best photos here on Flickr https://flic.kr/s/aHBqjALpA9. You can download a more detailed report of the day (Word.docx 3 pages). At Lynford Water, authorised by Forestry England; thanks to them, volunteers, lifeguards, and everyone who made it such a great day.

First aid for wild swimmers training 29 October 2022

This one day course was run by Lake Training, devised and delivered by one of our trained lifeguards, Fernanda Lake, supported by the project. It was advertised to project volunteers and prospective volunteers, and aimed to give those involved in wild swimming confidence in dealing with emergencies until help arrives and the skills to recognise when that help is needed. It covered topics from minor injuries and self care management to CPR and the use of a defibrillator. Photos,  https://flic.kr/s/aHBqjAdyFZ

Swim intro events:

Qualified lifeguards and skilled volunteers introduced people in the Brecks to swimming outdoors, understanding the risks and how to be safe and have fun. After the intro events we send round more info, including swimming and playing safely Q and A, https://www.imogensriverswims.co.uk/blog/issues/swim-play-in-water-safely-q-a/, and more detailed note.

4 September 2022 Swim Event: The small-scale swim event with adult and children’s races and fun activities was great fun, and also provided some challenges and safety learning. Race participants and children were all given a certificate. Swim Event photos: sets for each race and the children’s event, and Best selected, https://flic.kr/s/aHBqjA6UVF (see albums list).

4 September Swim Intro: 50 adults and young people had an intro to swimming outdoors and learnt some safety info. The weather was gloriously warm and sunny and everyone enjoyed the sessions. Swim Intro photos: Credit Morz Marlow: sets for each session and Ten selected: https://photos.app.goo.gl/GqaUBFWy8n4RL4nk7. Photos by ImogenRadford: Swim Intro: Three sets, one for each session, and Best selection: https://flic.kr/s/aHBqjA6hxC. Both 4 Sept events held at Lynford Water, authorised by Forestry England. Thanks to them, volunteers, lifeguards, BFER, and everyone who took part.

21 August 2022 – Introduction to outdoor swimming: have a go, learn how to be safe and have fun (small group of young people with additional needs with their carers). Lynford Water, authorised by Forestry England. On a lovely sunny day 16 young people with 17 adults had fun getting in the warm water (up to 23°) and having a go at swimming and playing with water toys, and some people had a go on the lifeguards’ paddle board! Thanks to volunteers, lifeguards and everyone who made this such an enjoyable day. Photos from all sessions in five sets, with the Best selection here, https://flic.kr/s/aHBqjA56R2

28 July 2022, High Lodge Open Day 100 years of Thetford Forest celebration day. We had displays and volunteers to talk to people about the projects and the events.

16 July 2022, 10-2 – Thetford BFER Health and Wellbeing event. A small scale event alongside a 5K run, with activities including outdoor yoga taster sessions, on Butten Island. Volunteers were there to talk about outdoor swimming past and present, with displays about the projects.

3 July 2022 – Coaching for outdoor swimming: tips to develop your swimming, and Outdoor Swimming Intro sessions for families and children, both at Lynford Water, public lake, event authorised by Forestry England. Three groups received coaching tips, a total of 45 took part and learnt some useful techniques and tricks, how to look out for hazards and see where they are going and many more ways to improve their swimming. And 22 families – 60 people including children from 1 to 15 – learnt about safety and had enormous fun swimming and playing in the water. The sun shone for most of the day and the water was warm. Big thanks to 23 volunteers, to the lifeguards, to Forestry England and BFER, and to everyone who took part were making it such a successful and enjoyable day. Photos from the two events in four albums including best here, https://flic.kr/s/aHBqjzXf1k.

29 May 2022 – Introduction to outdoor swimming: have a go, learn how to be safe and have fun (adults and 13+), Mildenhall Jubilee Fields. We introduced 60 people to outdoor swimming Sunday 29 May, in sunshine and showers, with smiles from all! Thanks to 20 volunteers, including many local, five lifeguards we have trained, three on their first outing as part of David Ebbs’ lifeguard team, with permission and a great welcome from Mildenhall High Town Council, Mayor Ian and deputy Mayor Russell. Photos in six albums, with the best here, https://flic.kr/s/aHBqjzS6Tj. Volunteers and lifeguards briefed participants with tips to stay safe while having fun, and many practised being starfish  in the water, promoting #FloatToLive.

6 June 2022, Lark in the Park. We had displays and talked to people about the projects and the events.

22 May 2022 – Open Water Lifeguard refresher training, for 10 enthusiastic lifeguards trained by the project and independently, all of whom who will be working and volunteering to support the project. The training was run by David Ebbs, lifeguard provider and trainer for all our events. Photos here, https://flic.kr/s/aHBqjzR9SE.

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 in four sessions, 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 lifeguards, assisted by volunteers, introduced over 70 people, from age 3 upwards, to swimming outdoors, understanding the risks and how to be safe and have fun. It was held at Lynford Water public lake (approved by Forestry England) Read a report of the event.

6 June 2021 – Introduction to outdoor swimming: have a go, learn how to be safe and have fun Qualified trainers and lifeguards, assisted by volunteers, introduced 100 people in the Brecks 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. Read a report of 6 June 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.

13 September 2020 – a day of introduction to outdoor swimmingsessions:  ‘have a go, learn how to be safe and have fun’. The first of these training events was very popular and successful. Qualified trainers and lifeguards, supported by volunteers, introduced people in the Breckland area to swimming outdoors, understanding the risks and how to be safe and have fun. 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 get involved, or to hear about future events in all the BFER projects you can sign up for BFER updates and newsletter here

11 March 2020 – workshop for landowners/land managers, organised jointly with the Visitor Safety Group (a landowner organisation with a body of experience on balancing safety and visitor access).

This was for landowners or managers with rivers or water where people swim or might swim or do other recreation. If you are interested to hear more about involvement in the project (or you know anyone who is), please contact me.

Landowners and other participants marked places on the Brecks map where they owned or managed land and where they have swum, at a workshop 11 March 2020 at the start of the Healing Waters project.

From the workshop: Download a talk on the project 11 March 2020 (Word.doc, 2 pages)

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, and read about it here.

The day was organised by the project and the team running The Brecks Fen Edge & Rivers Landscape Partnership Scheme (BFER, supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund), and the Visitor Safety Group.

Summary of the project

Healing Waters will engage people in healthy outdoor activities, including learning to enjoy being in, on or by the water safely and with care for the environment; and in mapping and considering publicising suitable places for swimming or for other recreational uses of the rivers.

We will consult and involve landowners and land managers from the start, to address the concerns that some have about swimming and other watery recreation, and to promote positive benefits. We aim to improve people’s understanding of safe and environmentally friendly behaviours around water, which can to help tackle the issues.

We want to introduce people of all ages to enjoying the water safely and with care for the environment, to allay their fears and misunderstandings and those of parents and authorities, and to equip people to do their own risk assessments and mitigate risks, and to have fun. We will also be providing training to young people on safety, life-saving and lifeguarding.

More detail on the projects on this website and about all the BFER projects on The Brecks Fen Edge & Rivers Landscape Partnership Scheme website, supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Please contact me with any questions, or to sign up for updates. More on how to get involved on this website.

You might also be interested in the latest on the Tales from the River project, Swim history project plans 2021.

display panel with text and photos
Display panel 3: Healing Waters (used at Conference March 2019)

See more displays on the project, on this website

Logo with stylised river and pines, link to BFER website
The Brecks Fen Edge & Rivers Landscape Partnership Scheme
NHLF logo, link to website
The National Lottery Heritage Fund

swims and swim places, and related issues