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Rising visitor numbers at country parks spark warnings over water safety

With local country parks reporting increased numbers of ‘staycation’ visitors, Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service would like to remind people to please think ‘water safety’.

Park spaces with waterways, such as Sywell Country Park, have been experiencing surges in visitor numbers, but also issues with people not abiding by park bylaws.

Visitors have been using parks for barbecues and having social gatherings late into the evening, with some unauthorised swimming taking place.

NFRS would like to remind people that swimming at unauthorised sites can be dangerous and contravenes country park rules in Northamptonshire.

For those interested in Open Water Swimming, there are safe, supervised sessions at Sywell Country Park which can be joined. More information is available about these by emailing Unsupervised swimming at this site is not allowed.

The reason this warning is being given is that the waterways at 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.

Northamptonshire County Council Cabinet Member for Corporate & Community Services, Councillor Sandra Naden-Horley, said: “We love welcoming people to our country parks and think it’s fantastic that people are choosing to make the most of the wonderful landscapes and scenery the county has to offer.

“Whilst we recognise it can be very tempting for people to want to take a dip, particularly on a warm day, there are many hidden dangers beneath the water’s surface and it is simply not safe for this to happen.

“We must stress that park rules are there for your safety therefore we respectfully ask you to follow them and kindly ask that you adhere to social distancing, take litter home with you to be recycled and do not partake in unauthorised swimming.”

Darren Carson, Prevention Team Leader at Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “I think the country parks are understandably seeing a lot of visitors at the moment, with people using them to enjoy the school holidays, and possibly with some families opting not to go away for their holidays this year.

“We really want people to enjoy their summers and their green spaces safely so we would urge them to please be mindful of the signs around parks which remind visitors about what is expected from them. We hope people will only have barbecues in designated areas and will make sure they are safe about positioning them away from trees, bushes and anything that could ignite.

“The swimming messages are also important as water can firstly be colder than people expect and can contain hidden hazards, which can catch out even the strongest swimmers. We would ask people to please stay out of the water at country parks, rivers and lakes, unless a supervised open water swimming session is being carried out.”

For more details about open water safety, see:

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