Outdoor Swimming photos or stories to share?

Logo with stylised river and pines, link to BFER website
The Brecks Fen Edge & Rivers Landscape Partnership Scheme

The project to discover and celebrate Brecks swimming heritage, Tales from the River, trained volunteers in 2021 and has been doing research and oral history interviewing since. Young historians have produced a film and an exhibition, and you can see these and some stories from research and memories gathered so far in the Project Updates.

For the latest info on the Tales from the River project dates and for more detail see Swim history project plans.

We are looking for people who might like to tell us their stories and memories about swimming and other recreation or activities, or would like to send us information. You could tell your story to a volunteer, and you can read the Info Sheet about the Oral History part of the Tales from the River project here, https://www.imogensriverswims.co.uk/blog/os-brecks-2/info-sheet-tales-from-the-river/

Do you have old photos, old maps or swim spots info, or stories about nice days out swimming or messing about in the water, or other stories, even about things that nearly went wrong? Any old videos or films? If you have anything interesting, please let us know or share it. More detail on how, below, or Contact me.

We have a form to provide written stories or information, which includes an agreement you can sign and details of what we are collecting. Download Agreement to provide Written stories or info form (Word.doc 2 pages), and (for telling your story in a chat with a volunteer), see the Info Sheet.

These projects, Tales from the River and Healing Waters, are part of the The Brecks Fen Edge & Rivers Landscape Partnership Scheme (BFER), supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

children sitting on river bank and in the river
Children enjoying the water in summer at St Helens

The two projects are  Tales from the River, looking at this history of outdoor swimming in the area, and Healing Waters, looking at practical issues of safety and access for swimming in the area.

These projects, Tales from the River and Healing Waters, are part of The Brecks Fen Edge & Rivers Landscape Partnership Scheme (BFER), supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Some info on a couple of unusual swim places below.

We will share material we find as well, on this website, and:

– on the project Facebook page, Bathing in the Brecks, https://www.facebook.com/osbrecks/

– on the project Twitter, https://twitter.com/OSBrecks

– on the project Instagram, www.instagram.com/osbrecks

– on the BFER project page, https://brecks.org/bfer/projects/under-the-surface-discovering-heritage/2-2-tales-from-the-river/ and @thebrecksLP social media


Share material with us:

Some local photos and stories

Here are some stories about swimming, fishing and skating at some of the watermills and nearby rivers in the Brecks, from the Norfolk Mills website.

extract from website
Northwold Mill, part of the Norfolk Mills website

As a boy I lived at Methwold. I am certain Northwold Mill was intact 1944/45.It was certainly there July 1945 because I cut my foot swimming in the pool and Mr. Bateman took me by car to the doctor in Northwold.  I used to go swimming and fishing and remember exploring inside. It was non operative then. When swimming in the pool we boys were joined sometimes by American airmen, I believe from Bodney. Basil Kybird – 5th March 2007. http://www.norfolkmills.co.uk/Watermills/northwold.html

I remember the water mill from 1948/9 when the structure was in poor condition, my parents allowed me and my sisters to swim in the pool race providing we did not enter the building . My father was Head Keeper on the Didlington Estate and I also used to swim with another keepers son Gerald Dye, both in the river and of course at the mill. Our fishing expeditions in the river were unmitigated failures equipped with a bent pin, dough and string. Maurice Jay – 27th August 2019. http://www.norfolkmills.co.uk/Watermills/northwold.html

I was sent to Little Cressingham as an evacuee with my sister aged 3, I was 9. At Christmas one year the river froze over and the whole village turned out to skate and even sat on chairs to be pushed about it was so thick. Doreen Viner (née Sansom) – 13th October 2018. http://www.norfolkmills.co.uk/Watermills/lt-cressingham.html

A sturgeon, measuring 7 ft. 8 in. in length, and 3 ft. 2 in. in circumference, and weighing 192 lbs., was killed in the Mill Pool, April 7th 1715. The Mighty City in the East – A. Leigh Hunt 1870. http://www.norfolkmills.co.uk/Watermills/thetford.html

In April 1737 the antiquary Francis Blomefield notes in his correspondence that a 13 stone 10lb sturgeon, seven feet long was caught in the paper mill pool. http://www.norfolkmills.co.uk/Watermills/thetford-bishops.html

extract from website

Thetford Coffee Mill, part of the Norfolk Mills website

Museum4Watton have created a slideshow of images from their collections, including the swimming pool in the lake. View it on YouTube here, Loch Neaton, Watton May 1948 – YouTube. It was still open in 1991, so there must be many around who remember it, https://www.wattonandswaffhamtimes.co.uk/news/lovely-old-pictures-show-swaffham-watton-over-the-years-1-5262599.

.map of Duck Sluice area

Black and white photo of men bathing in a river pool
Soldiers at Duck Sluice, Fornham St Genevieve, 13 August 1915. Picture by Walter Burrell

An old photo held in Suffolk Record Office shows soldiers relaxing in cooling off in the river, near where they were stationed. Is there a pool here today? Some photos on the St Edmundsbury website.

“In 1914, the estate [Fornham Park at Fornham St Genevieve] was requisitioned by the War office for military occupation. …Duck sluice today is completely derelict and only a few bricks remain to show its location. Its original purpose was to control the water supply to an offshoot of the River Lark, which also no longer exists.” http://www.stedmundsburychronicle.co.uk/fornhampark/fornhampark.htm

kids paddling at a river beach



Mildenhall Beach, thanks to Megan Flint for the lovely photo

Do you know where the little beach is in Mildenhall? Locals find their way to it through the woods. There is a lovely photo of people enjoying a summer paddle in a local Facebook forum discussion. Many towns and villages have their local swim spots, some have been used for a long time. This one must be more recent, as it is in the cut-off channel, which was only constructed in the 1950s and 1960s.

Two fascinating accounts of the history and the course of this channel, in an Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership website article and on Wikipedia.

There are plans to open up access to the banks at the Mildenhall and Lakenheath end, in other projects in The Brecks Fen Edge and Rivers Landscape Project.

These projects, Tales from the River and Healing Waters, are part of The Brecks Fen Edge & Rivers Landscape Partnership Scheme (BFER), supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

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


swims and swim places, and related issues