www.swimwimbledon.co.uk

23rd July 2019 SGRA

Open water swimming in WImbledon Park Lake:  considerations and concerns

We understand there are many concerns, questions and potential objections to open water swimming in the lake.  Over the last month we have taken as much time as available (we are volunteers!) to listen and engage with existing Lake stakeholders.  We welcome further consultation but the below summarises the most frequent concerns raised:

  1. Water quality: We have tested the water and it is well inside the EU bathing directive acceptable limits for swimming (tested June 2nd with Swim Safety Labs[1]) no worse than many other open water swimming locations e.g. Serpentine, Shepperton Lake, Hampstead Ponds.  2014 water tests we also shared - these too would have  all have passed EU bathing standards).  Human guinea pigs: after two swims nobody in our team has been ill!  
  2. Wildlife: What about the ducks and bird life? Open water swimming is incredibly peaceful and non invasive. There are countless examples across the UK where birdlife exists in harmony with open water swimming. Serpentine and Henleaze lake are two great open water swimming Lakes which, like Wimbledon Park Lake, are home to migrating birds. Migrations happen in April and September when the lake would be closed to open water swimming anyway. What about the fish and eels? A large dinghy  / a safety boat with a propeller affects these more than a wetsuited swimmer.  Eels largely congregate around the boundaries and manmade structures around the Lake anyway.
  3. Silt and weed. How will swimmers deal with the weed and silt - is the Lake swimmable? In the same way the watersports club does for dinghies. Currently the weed is being hacked back by the watersports club.  The silt / weed issues need addressing in part for many groups.  We would propose to work with the watersports club to work out the best swim route to follow the deepest lines of the Lake. Our recent test swims found goo stretches of water.
  4. How will this be paid for? Merton watersports team are already at capacity and the council has no more money! A blended club subscription and a pay per swim model will more than pay for itself and support covering the costs of temporary staffing, safety, equipment and the times for when this is needed. We have had many people come forward who are qualified to provide such water and open water swim safety expertise.  Our proposed model would pay for them and make a return to the water sports club - nobody will be out of pocket on time or money. This can generate income and revenues for Merton be reinvested back into the future of the lake.  Swim Wimbledon will happily discuss in more detail it’s proposed model for this.
  5. Is there a risk recreational swimming might become the expected norm if the Lake is used for open water swims? How can we make this safe and only ensure only secured open water swimming operates at set times?   It is a public lake and as such people could (if they wanted to ) swim at anytime. Educating and informing people about safe open water swimming and having an appropriate system for park entry and induction / signup will prevent this as will working with the watersports team to secure a designated open water swim route / area.
  6. Park security and access. The Park can’t be opened early enough for this! Certain groups already have access and their own keys. British Military Fitness (BMF) and Friends of Wimbledon Park (FoWP) and environmental staff / volunteers have access to the park in earlier hours. The same model can operate for us
  7. We have no experience of running open water swims. Don’t worry the Outdoor Swimming society have a lot and have experience of working with local government (e.g. Beckenham Place Park in Lewisham) to make this work.  Swim Wimbledon is staffed by experienced volunteers who also have an open invitation from the owner/manager of Shepperton to take Merton to see their ‘safety first’ super organised open water swim model in action and learn from approach their team take.
  8. Swimming will interfere with other watersports on the lake!   Not the case!  Open water swimming can occur early mornings when sailing is not taking place / and or a cordoned off separate area could potentially also be open for swimming away from sailing areas - the Lake is big enough!
  9. Swimmers will lead to unnecessary traffic in the area / to the Park The area is well served by many modes of public transport - most open water swimmers are generally active and will probably cycle or walk anyway!  

If you think we have missed any issues please email us at swimwimbledon@infonation.io

Authors: SC, SB, RB

Date updated: 22/07/2019

www.swimwimbledon.co.uk

https://www.change.org/p/make-swimming-in-wimbledon-park-lake-a-reality


[1] https://swim-safety.co.uk/ specialise in recruiting, developing and managing local water safety teams for events requiring water safety cover for swimmers, such as triathlons, open water swims and mass participation events)