10 tips for cold water swimming

An article in The Guardian this week reported a 323% rise in the number of people swimming outdoors. And we’re not surprised having seen huge numbers of swimmers in Clevedon Marine Lake in recent months.

As the water temperature plummets (10-11 degrees centigrade at time of writing) and we hear more and more about the health and wellbeing benefits of outdoor swimming, we asked one of our Open Water Swimming Coaches for her top tips for safe winter swimming.

  1. Be safe
    Swim in a safe spot, watching out for currents and tides. The lake is safe all the time apart from when the tide comes over the wall. Check here for the high tide height — if it’s over 12.6m, swim an hour earlier or an hour later.
  2. Get acclimatised
    This means taking short, regular dips as the temperature drops so your body gets used.
  3. Swim together
    Never swim on your own. It’s best to buddy up, or at least have someone watching you from the side.
  4. No diving
    Cold water shock causes you to gasp and makes you unable to hold your breath. If this happens underwater it can be deadly. Most of the lake is shallow and there are rocks under the surface, which adds to the danger of diving.
  5. Wear a hat
    Or two! Swimming hat or bobble hat, it’ll keep you warmer and make sure others can see you.
  6. Dip
    Winter’s for dipping. Stay in for 1 minute per degree of temperature MAX. You keep on cooling down for half-an-hour after you get out of the water, so this will protect you from hypothermia and the afterdrop.
  7. Know your limits
    If you can swim a mile in the pool it doesn’t mean you can swim a mile outdoors. Your muscles will tire quickly and you’ll find it harder to control your breathing. Start with short swims.
  8. Stay near the exit
    It’s better to swim a few small laps than try to swim lengths of the lake.
  9. Take warming up seriously
    Wear a bobble hat, extra layers, drink a warm drink and eat something. Go somewhere warm, but avoid a hot bath or shower and don’t drive home until you’ve stopped shivering!
  10. Educate yourself and others
    Read up, listen to this podcast (free, but does include swearing), and then help others learn about how to enjoy swimming outdoors in winter safely.

Why no dogs?

Did you know that Clevedon Marine Lake has a strict no dogs policy? We take a look at the reasons why.

With so many great walks around Poet’s Walk and the Salthouse Fields, it’s tempting to take your dog to the marine lake. But we don’t allow dogs in the water or around the lower promenade by the lake at any time of the year. This is for a number of reasons, not least to keep the lake clean and safe for swimmers, paddlers and bathers.

Dirty dogs

You might keep your dog well-groomed, but dogs are hairy and nasties including pollen, dirt and faecal matter get trapped in their coats. Dogs in the water will introduce parasites and germs such as E.coli that affect humans and sea creatures.

But it’s not just dogs in the water that’s a problem. If your dog pees and poos on the lakeside that poses a risk to the water quality in the lake as it washes in or is transferred on people’s feet. It also poses a risk to those who sit, change, and sunbathe and to children playing.

Swimming and paddling-boarding in the lake are activities vital to people’s health and wellbeing all year round. We work very hard to keep the water as clean as possible, as well as the area around the lake, and it costs us around £20k a year and many hours of voluntary work. Keeping your dog away is an easy way to help keep our lake clean.

“When the lake’s closed because of water quality issues, not only do people lose out on the activities that help them feel good, but also coaches lose out on earnings and it costs lots of time and money to empty and clean the lake,” says Rowan Clarke who coaches swimming at the marine lake. “It’s frustrating to see people walking their dogs around the lower promenade or letting them go in the water. I have a dog myself, but I leave her at home when I go to the lake.”

Unlike the sea, which ebbs and flows all the time, the marine lake is a small body of water that only refreshes once a month or so. That makes it even more vulnerable to pollution.

Dogs: not every man’s best friend

You may love your dog, but not everybody feels the same. Some people don’t like dogs, while others are scared of them or are allergic to dogs. These people will often find places to go where dogs are banned. This is another reason to avoid bringing your dog to the lake.

Keeping dogs safe

The lake has good access for people, but not for dogs. The lip around the edge makes it difficult for a dog to climb out, and that could spell trouble if your dog falls or jumps in.

“I was coaching once and an excitable spaniel came running down to the lake and leapt in,” says Rowan. “Luckily, he was wearing a harness and he was quite light so I could pull him out!”

It’s much better to take your dog where they start off in their depth and the water gets gradually deeper. Here are some good tips on keeping your dog safe in and around water.

You could be fined

North Somerset Council have put a dog ban order in place at Clevedon Marine Lake. That means that you could be fined £80 for bringing your dog to the lake.

If you’re visiting Clevedon, you take your dog on the beach by the Little Harp and Layde Bay all year round. There are lovely walks around Poet’s Walk, and dogs are welcome in the Salthouse pub and on Clevedon Pier.

Dog-Friendly Britain is a great resource for finding places to go with your four-legged friend.

What’s Up

Things are hotting up at the lake – quite literally – with the easing of lockdown and some spectacular weather…

Stepping up to the mark

With crowds literally flooding the lake over half-term week, not only have the bins been overflowing, but the amount of rubbish left around the lake has been shameful.  Thanks to volunteers like Gill (pictured above) and many others, including a growing number of new helpers and hands-on locals, the lake has been looking spick and span every morning before 9am!  What a great job Marlens’ volunteers do.  THANK YOU.

Don’t overstep the mark – Stay 2m apart.

The lake has remained open as a place for individual exercise during lockdown – conditional on social distancing.  It has been extraordinarily busy over half-term and social distancing is not being observed.  Towards the end of the week, volunteers sprayed 123 yellow lines, 2m apart on the lower promenade to help people manage their space.  With spray can supplies replenished, more will appear this week!

Water quality testing

The first sample taken on Thursday 28th May recorded a result of POOR water quality in the lake.  The water quality in Clevedon Marine Lake will be sampled before and after each series of overtopping tides (approximately those over 12.5m), during the warm summer months when the lake is heavily used.  The testing schedule is below.

  1. 4th – 8th June
  2. 21st – 24th July
  3. 18th – 23rd August
  4. 16th – 22nd September

There are marginal overtops 5th – 6th July and 4th – 5th August.  These will only be tested if there is an indication of water quality problems.

Two red flags have been put up, one at either end of the lake, adjacent to the information boards with an explanatory notice.  A red flag means the water quality in Clevedon Marine Lake is currently POOR.  The latest test results and alerts are shared on social media, via our BLOG and lakeside to explain the situation and actions being taken.  Information is shared to allow lake users to make an informed decision about entering the water.

If the water quality in the lake is tested as POOR, it is recommended that the public do not swim in the lake until the water has refreshed, especially if unwell or with low immunity.  Anyone choosing to swim is advised to wear ear plugs and goggles to protect against infection.  All visitors having contact with the lake water are advised to wash or cleanse hands before eating.

Repairs

Following the 14m high tides around April’s Full Moon on 8th, there was a rockslide along the entry ramp leading to the pump house.  Contractors were on site w/c 18/5/20 making good the area, with a rather splendid retaining wall!

 

Getting the message across

If you are in or around the lake over the coming weeks, we are asking everyone to help spread these messages:

  • Help us Help the Lake. Marlens’ charity and a team of volunteers, run the lake, not North Somerset Council.
  • It costs £20,000 p.a. to keep Clevedon Marine Lake open to the public.
  • The lake is a semi-natural environment like a beach or river. Users enter at their own risk. Be safety aware.
    • Cold water – Know your limits.
    • Shallow perimeter – No diving or jumping in.
    • Uneven lakebed – Look at the lake map to understand where it is deep and shallow.
    • Underwater hazards like rocks – Risk of cuts and grazes, minimise contact with lakebed.
    • Overtopping tidesCheck tide times & heights before each visit; don’t enter the lake when it’s overtopping.
  • Respect the lake and its inhabitants. Bag and bin any litter – or even better, take it home.  Leave crabs as happy as you found them – and no bait scraps or fish hooks.

Friends of Clevedon Marine Lake

If you’re a Friend of Clevedon Marine Lake, why not become a friend for life?  We kindly ask Friends to consider setting up a standing order for £50 a year to become a perennial Friend, to continue supporting the lake, at less than £1 a week.  This can be done via on-line banking ‘Payments & Transfers’, set up as an annual transaction using the following details  * Account name:  MARLENS * Sort code:  20-94-74 * Account number:  13465160 * Reference:  Perennial Friend.

Sign up to Marlens’ Lottery

Alternatively, if you fancy a punt on Clevedon Marine Lake, with better odds of winning than the National Lottery, you can now sign up to Marlens’ Lottery on-line.  Marlens’ Lottery was launched in August 2015 to create a steady income to help run Clevedon Marine Lake throughout the year, following its renovation.

Lost and Found

Lost property is regularly picked up by MARLENS’ volunteers from around the lake and stored in the boathouse. For items left behind, contact 07867 336480.

The lake will be CLOSED on 3rd and 4th June, reopening on 5th from 9am

Clevedon Marine Lake will be closed all day Wednesday and Thursday this week, as well as early Friday morning, to drain and refresh the water following high usage during the half-term heatwave.

The lake will fully refill during Friday’s high spring tide at 7.20am – and will be accessible to the public from 9am on 5th June.  The water quality will be tested on Tuesday 9th June after the series of overtopping tides.

Visitors should check the times and heights of high tides before coming to the lake.  The sea overtops the outer wall of Clevedon Marine Lake at the top of high spring tides of 12.6m or more – refreshing the water in the lake.  The lake becomes part of the Severn Estuary and the seawall is no longer visible.  In addition, the lower promenade can completely disappear underwater during overtops.

Visitors should not enter the lake during overtops, and allow at least one hour either side of these times before entering the lake:

OVERTOPS

First high tide

Second high tide

Friday 5th June

7.20am

7.47pm

Saturday 6th June

8.08am

8.33pm

Sunday 7th June

8.54am

9.17pm

Monday 8th June

9.37am

10.00pm

Visitors are asked to use the lake and surrounds respectfully:

  1. Take all rubbish home.
  2. Use the public toilets behind the arcade.
  3. Barbecue on the beach not by the lake.
  4. Respect social distancing on the promenade using the yellow spray lines to stay 2m apart.
  5. Stay off the pontoon (blue island in the middle of the lake) as it is too small to support social distancing.

Fishhooks are a hazard to lake users

Fishing tackle especially hooks should not to be left in or around the lake, likewise bait.

A fishhook is a curved, sharp instrument designed to keep the catch on the hook with a barb near the tip. It will cause injury to a person if stepped on or handled inappropriately.

If you’re visiting to fish, be it in the lake or over the wall in the estuary, please be mindful of other lake users.

Please read our guide to Happy Crabbing.

Stay out of the lake when the tide is over the seawall

A male swimmer was rescued by RNLI helicopter and HM Coastguard this morning after swimming over the seawall into the estuary during the overtopping tide; he was subsequently dragged by the rip and pulled downstream in the ebb, 40 minutes after high tide, which was at 7.43am.  Fortunately, he is reported to be fine.

It is dangerous to access the lake to swim during overtopping tides.  A strong rip is created on the estuary side of the seawall, which can quickly sweep swimmers away from the lake and into the tidal flow.

Clevedon Marine Lake in nestled in the Severn Estuary, which has the third largest tidal range in the world.  This means that the sea at Clevedon has an extremely strong tidal pull.

The sea overtops the outer wall of Clevedon Marine Lake at the top of high spring tides of 12.6m or more – refreshing the water in the lake.  The lake becomes part of the Severn Estuary and the seawall is no longer visible.  In addition, the lower promenade can completely disappear underwater during overtops.

Clevedon Marine Lake overtops approximately every two weeks during spring tides.  Spring tides have the greatest tidal range and occur during the full moon and the new moon phases, twice each lunar month all year long without regard to the season.  In rougher conditions, fresh seawater will spill into the lake before a high tide of 12.6m is reached.

  • Always check tide times and heights when planning your lake visit.  A series of overtops at high tide can last a full week.
  • Know which way the tide is flowing (in or out) when you arrive at the lake.
  • Do NOT enter the lake around high tide when 12.6m or higher tides are expected.

As we approach the peak months for usage of Clevedon Marine Lake – coinciding with the expected easing of lockdown, Marlens, the charity behind the lake, urges people to heed all the advice on site and on the lake website.

During lockdown, Clevedon Marine Lake has remained open for individual exercise, with visitors reminded to maintain a distance of at least 2m from each other.  Users have been requested to access the lake grounds responsibly, in line with Government guidelines and to avoid unnecessary travel.

 

Don’t go beyond the rope when dinghies are sailing!

From April to September, Clevedon Sailing Club runs weekly lake sessions for novice sailors on Friday from 6pm – and will be running an RYA course across May and June on Saturdays from 10am.

These sessions are for young sailors who are learning how to control their craft – thus aren’t yet able to consistently steer clear of unexpected swimmers or canoeists or to cope with sudden gusts of wind.

For safety’s sake, during sailing sessions on the lake, all other lake users (swimmers, SUPs, canoes) are kindly requested to stay at the island end of Clevedon Marine Lake.

A rope with floats will be attached across the lake to segregate the sailing dinghies from other lake users, creating a safe area, around the island and toward the pumphouse steps, for swimmers and other users.  The designated sailing area, the other side of the rope is out of bounds for any other users.  The rope will be clearly visible and is intended to protect all lake users during sailing dinghy sessions – sailors and other users alike.

It’s a good idea to keep an eye on the lake calendar when planning your visit.

Slip hazard in small splash pool

Parents are encouraged to keep youngsters to the big splash pool (pictured) for the time being; it was cleaned and the water refreshed on Thursday, 18th July 2019, so is safe to use.  However, a slippery black algae deposit has been found in the smaller, upper splash pool and the channel between the two pools.  Volunteers will pressure wash and deep clean the small pool and channel next week – but in the meantime, there is a risk of slipping for any children standing on the black deposit.  Further updates on the algae clean-up will be shared here.

The splash pool area at Clevedon Marine Lake is very popular with young children, especially when the weather’s warm.  In February, over £4,000 was spent improving the drain works for the splash pools, to make sluicing and maintenance a lot easier for volunteers.

There’s always lots to do at the lake in terms of litter picking, cleaning, muscle work and site management, so if you can spare any time to help out, please contact volunteer@marlens.org.uk

Well done to everyone who assisted

Just before Christmas an elderly gentleman suffered a cardiac arrest after a brief swim in Clevedon Marine Lake. He was fortunate to receive immediate care from three swimmers lakeside, who were off-duty or ex-nurses; he was given CPR and the Coastguard Station defibrillator (pictured) was deployed. Three paramedic vehicles and the air ambulance attended and took over after approximately 15 minutes. The patient was stabilised and transferred to an Intensive Care Unit.

We are pleased to announce that after several days in ICU, the gentleman has been transferred to a Cardiac Unit for further treatment.

Marlens would like to say thank you and well done to everyone who assisted.

Don’t jump into the unknown

Take notice of the safety signs around Clevedon Marine Lake. NO DIVING means NO DIVING.

There are ‘No Diving’ signs positioned around Clevedon Marine Lake. This means no diving in Clevedon Marine Lake, because most of it is shallow, the water is murky and there may be obstructions on the lake bed.

Water may look safe, but it can be dangerous. Water depth may be shallower than it seems. Submerged objects like rocks may not be visible – these can cause serious impact injuries.

Know the SIGNS. A red ring shape with a line running through it, white background and symbols mean you should NOT do this.