The Last Stand

Excerpts from Chapter 7

 

Thankfully there are still a few places around the country at which traditional swimming survives despite the changes in culture with which swimmers now contend. These pockets of resistance are to be celebrated as they show just what is possible even in this modern world of constraint and officialdom. The final chapter will introduce you to places of outstanding interest for those keen to experience swimming in natural surroundings.

Penzance-Cornwall 

London

Farleigh, Hungerford

Henleaze Swimming Club 

Cotswold Water Park

In Conclusion

 

I was very sorry to leave Henleaze at the end of the day. The two springboards along with the 5m and 7.5m platform had proved to be an exciting entertainment. I envy those living nearby who find that membership adds more than a little sparkle to their lives. Henleaze is living proof that open water swimming can be safe, diving need not be dangerous and people can act sensi-bly. Is Henleaze really a time capsule, or is it more likely to be a window on the reality that swimmers have not changed all that much over the years? Despite the influence of the Health and Safety Executive,  fun in the sun is still avail-able in Bristol, due in no small measure to the determination and resilience of a small group of dedicated committee members.   Cotswold Water Park  From the foregoing you might be tempted to think that it would be possible to resurrect many of the bathing places lost in the course of recent history. The fact is that our culture has changed unrecognisably over the last hundred years. Modern concerns over water quality, health and safety are not going to evapo-rate overnight, and nor should they. Even so, bathing in the great outdoors should not quickly be dismissed as impractical. It truly is possible to marry our modern concerns for hygiene and safety with our desire to swim in a natural environment. Opened in 1981, the beach at Keynes Country Park  is a practical ex-ample of just what can be achieved when the desire to provide such facilities is strong enough to overcome the first few obstacles. Advertised as the Children's Bathing Beach, one of the many disused gravel pits that make up the Cotswold Water Park  has been developed into a leisure area that families can enjoy in safety. The swimming area is clearly defined with shallow water near the beach, gently shelving to about six feet below the wooden boom that separates swim-mers from the rest of the lake. Lifeguards are on duty, keeping a watchful eye on the proceedings. Their periodic announcements over the tannoy are the only reminder that we are still in good old England. The beach itself consists of rounded pea gravel and sand; the water remains mostly clear and pleasantly warm. Barley straw is employed to avoid any possibility of algal development, and rodent control dispels fear over other  undesirables.  Thankfully,  beyond  the  boom a wire mesh restricts the movement of fish, keeping them out of the swimming area. Some of the fish are bigger than many of the children who bathe here! The water quality is regularly checked by the Environment Agency, and by way of final reassurance, a large blue flag (clean beach award) waved in the wind adjacent to the lifeguards station up until 2004. Since then it has not been applied for partly due to the high costs involved.  

Opened in 1981, the beach at Keynes Country Park  is a practical ex-ample of just what can be achieved when the desire to provide such facilities is strong enough to overcome the first few obstacles. Advertised as the Children's Bathing Beach, one of the many disused gravel pits that make up the Cotswold Water Park  has been developed into a leisure area that families can enjoy in safety. The swimming area is clearly defined with shallow water near the beach, gently shelving to about six feet below the wooden boom that separates swim-mers from the rest of the lake. Lifeguards are on duty, keeping a watchful eye on the proceedings. Their periodic announcements over the tannoy are the only reminder that we are still in good old England. The beach itself consists of rounded pea gravel and sand; the water remains mostly clear and pleasantly warm. Barley straw is employed to avoid any possibility of algal development, and rodent control dispels fear over other  undesirables.  Thankfully,  beyond  the  boom a wire mesh restricts the movement of fish, keeping them out of the swimming area. Some of the fish are bigger than many of the children who bathe here! The water quality is regularly checked by the Environment Agency, and by way of final reassurance, a large blue flag (clean beach award) waved in the wind adjacent to the lifeguards station up until 2004. Since then it has not been applied for partly due to the high costs involved.  How has all of this been paid for? At first simply by charging people to park their cars near to the lake, whereas now individuals pay as they enter the complex.  The popularity of the setting ensures its success. Adjacent to the lake, play areas delight the children; a shore side café revives the adults, and a visitor centre gives the whole place a holiday feel. Although it is possible to use other water areas nearby for canoeing, sailing, windsurfing etc, the vast majority of visitors arrive with cars brimming with inflatable boats, deckchairs and play equipment. They head for the beach, which fills to overflowing. The children play happily, enjoying the water whenever the sun shines. If anyone doubts that open water swimming is practical for today, I would encourage them to visit this water park to see firsthand just how we as a nation are missing out on what nature has to offer!   

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Reviews

 

"...the whole story makes for a fascinating social history." Bristol Evening Post

"Superb" Daniel Start (Wild Swimming and Wild Swimming Coast)

"...a smashing book... it deserves to do well" The Farley Book List

"...a thought-provoking and stimulating book, written in an accessible, direct and conversational style. It should be of interest to every outdoor swimmer." Brandon High The Outdoor Swimming Society

 

Contents

From Pride to Prejudice

Cleanliness Versus Godliness

Sex, Sea and Swimming Trunks

Sunny Days, Dark Shadows

Lidos Open, Rivers Close

Leicester, Swim City

The Last Stand