Warning to open water swimmers – stay away from ponds and lakes at Northamptonshire’s country parks

Barnwell Country Park

‘Steer clear of unsafe lakes and ponds if you want to open water swim,’ is the message from Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS).

This warning is being issued following the recent heatwave when groups of adults and children were seen attempting to swim and paddle in waterways at Northamptonshire’s country parks.

People are being reminded that the only open water swimming allowed at the county’s country parks is at Sywell, and only during the supervised swimming sessions. Unsupervised swimming at this site is not allowed.

The reason this warning is being given is that the waterways at the country parks – including Sywell, Barnwell and Fermyn Woods – hide weeds and undergrowth that swimmers could become tangled in.

There may also be other hidden hazards beneath the water surfaces and there is always a risk of cold water shock – which forces swimmers to gasp for breath and can cause them to lose control in the water, regardless of whether or not they are strong swimmers.

Darren Carson, Prevention Team Leader, said: “I’m really disappointed to hear about the problems the country parks experienced recently with unsupervised swimming at undesignated sites. I recognise it can be very tempting for people to want to take a dip, particularly on a warm day, but these stretches of water are simply not safe for this to happen.

“I think many people – children or adults – may feel strong and confident entering waterways because they know they can swim well. What they haven’t factored in is just what cold water shock can feel like, which is known to completely incapacitate the body, making it impossible for someone to save themselves. If someone then has to be rescued, it can lead to potential risk for other people too.”

Swimming in undesignated sites at country parks breaches park bylaws and managers also say it can be disturbing for local wildlife inhabiting the waterways.

Although these messages apply to country park sites where recent problems have been experienced with unsupervised open water swimming, the warning also applies to many other lakes and quarries across the county where people should also avoid swimming, due to potential dangers.

Northamptonshire County Council Cabinet Member for Corporate & Community Services, Councillor Sandra Naden-Horley, said: “We understand that during warmer weather swimming in lakes and ponds can seem appealing, but even the strongest of swimmers can find themselves caught up in objects hidden beneath the water’s surface or at risk of cold water shock.

“We want people to visit our country parks and enjoy the amazing scenery and beautiful landscapes, but we urge people to please wait for leisure centres to re-open before thinking about swimming.”

With the school holidays just around the corner, when even more children will be at home or searching for local days out, NFRS and managers of the county’s country parks are keen to make people aware of these important messages.

If people would like to experience safe open water swimming then they may wish to contact events@northantstri.co.uk for information on the supervised open water swimming sessions led at Sywell Country Park.

For more details about open water safety, see: https://www.rlss.org.uk/dos-dont-and-the-dangers-of-open-water

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