Why swimmers love Knettishall

This is what local swimmers said they liked about this Brecks river pool with a sandy beach – perfect to take children to have fun and learn to swim, and lovely for picnics and dips. Some safety tips and links, and earlier memories – more invited, too.

I asked local swimmers in the Outdoor Swimming in Breckland Facebook group what they liked about the river pool by the bridge at Knettishall Heath. This is what they said.

It’s a lovely place to take the kids in summer, the shallow beach area means it’s safe and easy to get in and out and great for paddling. The deeper bit is good for a proper swim or jumping in. It’s also closest place I can take a dip without a long drive. Also I have fond memories of swimming there as child and my Dad swam there too when he was a boy. Angela Beales

My kids swim there spring, summer and autumn. It’s such a lovely place to take kids to learn to swim. We go at least fortnightly in the summer. We often meet friends there for a picnic, dig and swim. I’m sure a lot of my children’s fondest memories have been made at Knettishall. They’ve learnt a lot about river ecosystems while exploring. Chloe

Summer through early autumn, with my 4 year old, been swimming / paddling since she was 1. Absolutely love it, especially walking upriver under the bridge where it is quiet and away from the rambunctious teenagers! Also take the neighbours’ dog anytime of year and throw sticks or balls. It’s a real delight to have this special place so near to home. Samantha

Nothing better on a warm day to pack a picnic, a book, swimming things & cycle to Knettishall (approx 14 miles) for a refreshing dip. Good grass area, trees for shade. Clear water, lovely little water fall. Enjoyable watching the youngsters having fun. A pretty place. I remember having fun there as a child too. Jilly

Me and my friend go regularly. Access is easy. Not far from the car, so changing easy. No need for tow float. The sound of the running water is lovely. No good for big swims, but what it lacks is size it gains in charm. Dear old Knettishall (that’s what we call it). I learnt to swim there. Lisa Davies

I take my son (16) with his mates in the summer. It’s a great place to spend a sunny afternoon & get an ice cream. Louise

I used to take my children to ‘Nettley Heath’, as my eldest called it, loads when they were small – complete with inflatable crocodile! I’m not from Norfolk originally, I had a very urban upbringing. As a child I only ever did river swimming once on a school trip to the Lake District but I loved the magic of swimming in a green space. I feel very lucky to now live so close to somewhere my children could take for granted as a summer holiday regular trip on hot days. That said, my Dad was incredulous that I took them to swim in a “mud hole”! Tracey Bennett

Go with friends, and family. It’s a great area to go to with family because people going there realise it’s a family friendly place. Bigger kids like to jump in, which is great. Nice and close to meet up with people too. It’s a lovely area… Go spring, summer and autumn. Lisa

…in the 15 years we’ve lived here it’s got busier and busier. Which is great but also has its drawbacks too. A lovely place to swim and take the dogs …. Best times are late in summer evenings when it cooled down and a bit quieter. Suzanne

many adult and child swimmers in a river
Knettishall in summer

Knettishall is a much loved place now and has been for generations (read earlier memories below, and maybe share your own?). People take children of all ages to have fun jumping, paddling and splashing about and learning to swim, picnicking and digging in the sand, and learning about river ecosystems. And they go to have a quiet dip out of the busy season, to take dogs, to enjoy the wildlife. It is appreciated because it is lovely, and because the shallow water makes it safer for children and the pool by the weir provides deeper water for a swim and jump.

Swimming outdoors in rivers is fun, and it isn’t dangerous compared to many other activities, but there are some risks so it’s important to know a few things so that you can keep yourself and your family safe.

Here’s how to stay S.A.F.E.

Spot the dangers – look before you leap in! Know where to get out before you get in. Before jumping in, check it is deep enough and there are no rocks or branches or other people in the way, and get used to the water temperature first. Wear swim shoes, and watch out for broken glass or other litter

Advice – follow safety advice (see OSS 10 tips and my Key Q & As)

Friend – swim with others. Supervise non-swimmers, weak swimmers or young children

Emergency – shout for help, call 999 and ask for Fire & Rescue service, throw a lifebuoy, rope or stick. Don’t get into the water to try to save somebody as they might pull you under and drown you, but instead talk to them and try to calm them down. If you fall into the water or feel panicky, turn onto your back and float, shout for help.

For more safety info see www.outdoorswimmingsociety.com/10-tips-for-summer-swim-safety/ or a Q&A with key info on swimming safely on this website.

Please be a responsible swimmer, respect wildlife and others, and take your litter home. Take responsibility for your own and your children’s safety, and follow the Outdoor Swimmers Code.

Suffolk Wildlife Trust, who run the site, would prefer swimming to be kept to the pool, and areas further downstream beside the reserve left for the wildlife.

Knettishall early morning in late summer

Earlier memories

Suffolk Wildlife Trust has collected people’s stories of enjoying nature, including at Knettishall:

“We lived in Thetford during the late 40’s. On special days we were taken to Red Arches, now part of Knettishall Heath. We would paddle and fish for tiddlers. A jam jar was the temporary aquarium and there seemed plenty of aquatic life. This was a popular [place] for local people to swim. We would explore the banks and there was always sunshine! The picnic was eaten sitting on a car rug over looking the bridge. The name came from the bridge over the Lt Ouse. In those days petrol was rationed, Red Arches was a treat.” Jo Woods, https://www.suffolkwildlifetrust.org/guw

The Tales from the River project (part of The Brecks Fen Edge & Rivers Landscape Partnership Scheme (BFER) ) is also collecting stories from people who have swum, paddled or otherwise enjoyed waters in the Brecks area  – do contact me if you’d like to tell us your story.

And the Healing Waters project, another BFER project, is available to talk to landowners about any aspects of swimming or other watery activities on their land   – feel free to contact me.