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.

Learn to swim outdoors

As some pools start to reopen, many swimmers are still choosing to swim outdoors. But swimming in open water is different from swimming in a pool. Luckily, we have experienced open water swimming coaches at the marine lake. These coaches can help with everything from learning to swim front crawl and confidence in open water, to triathlon training and swimming performance.

Why choose a coach?

Swimming coaches aren’t just for elite swimmers. Choosing to be coached can give you confidence, help your technique and help you adapt to open water. You might be training for an event or challenge, or you might want to feel safer and more relaxed when you swim.

Working with a coach is different from having swimming lessons. It’s a two-way experience, which means that you and your swimming coach will work together to reach your goals.

You may never have swum front crawl before and want to learn. Or, you might be a decent swimmer but find that you’re getting out of breath when you swim, front crawl makes you exhausted, or you don’t know how to look where you’re going (sight). Whatever you want to achieve, working with a coach is fun and rewarding.

Who are our open water swimming coaches?

Open water coaches at the marine lake this summer are:

Other registered coaches are:

Become a registered coach

If you’re an open water swimming coach, or coach any kind of watersports, and you want to use the lake, you must register first. To register, please email info@clevedonmarinelake.co.uk

The challenge is on

An exciting new challenge for swimmers is coming to Clevedon Marine Lake.

The Coronavirus pandemic has seen swimming events cancelled across the country this summer, which is a shame for those who have been training hard. It also means that charities that rely on funds raised by these events are missing out. But a new event taking place at lakes across the UK is changing that.

The challenge

Lakes for Level Water is a new fundraising swimming challenge created by Level Water and the Outdoor Swimming Society. The challenge is simple. Set yourself a distance that you want to complete, and then on the weekend of 15/16 August, head to Clevedon Marine Lake to swim. Whether you’ve always wanted to reach 2km, 5km or even 10km, now’s your to do it and be part of a national, social distance friendly challenge and raise money for a fantastic cause at the same time. You’ll get a free event swim cap and badge and have the chance to win some amazing prizes.

The cause

Level Water is a national charity that gives 1-1 swimming lessons to children with disabilities. But the charity’s life-changing work that gives 20,000 lessons to 500 children is at risk. Their income has been hit hard and if pools and events don’t reopen soon, the charity may not be able to continue. With the help of the Outdoor Swimming Society, lakes across the UK and you, this challenge will give Level Water hope for survival.

Twenty per cent of the money we raise will go to Clevedon Marine Lake to support the work we do to keep the lake open and safe for all to use. It costs £20,000 a year to look after our lake. And because our events have been cancelled too, this is a great chance to raise funds.

Join in

Level Water is offering prizes for taking part, and some mega prizes for the top fundraiser at each lake. We’re still waiting to confirm the prizes but so far, if you raise a minimum of £50, you’ll get a free waterproof phone bag from the wonderful Swim Secure.

To take part, go to the Clevedon Marine Lake team page on JustGiving and create your page. Make sure you create the JG page otherwise you won’t get your swimming hat or prizes.

Red flag means poor water quality

If a red flag is flying, it means the water quality in Clevedon Marine Lake is currently POOR.

A sample was taken from Clevedon Marine Lake on Thursday 28th May and the results indicate that the water quality in the lake is currently POOR.  More information can be found here.

It is recommended that the public do not swim in the lake until the water has refreshed, especially if unwell or with low immunity.

Information is shared to allow lake users to make an informed decision about entering the water.

Alerts are shared on notices either end of the lake (see below), social media and via our BLOG to explain the situation and actions being taken.

Clevedon Marine Lake is a semi-natural environment.  It is a living space filled by sea water from the Severn Estuary.  Consequently, there are risks associated with entering the water.

Water quality is POOR

A sample was taken from Clevedon Marine Lake on Thursday 28th May and the results indicate that the water quality in the lake is currently 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.

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.  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 retested on Tuesday 9th June after the series of overtopping tides.

Two red flags will be put up at the lake today, located at either end of the lake, adjacent to the information boards with an explanatory notice.

When a red flag is flying, it means the water quality in Clevedon Marine Lake is POOR.

Alerts are also shared on social media and via our BLOG to explain the situation and actions being taken.  Information is shared to allow lake users to make an informed decision about entering the water.

The schedule for testing water quality during the warm summer months, when the lake is heavily used, is detailed below.  Samples are taken before and after each series of overtopping tides (approximately those over 12.5m).

4 – 8th June

21st – 24th July

18th – 23rd August

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.

Under normal circumstances, the water quality in the Severn Estuary, which refills the lake, is monitored regularly by the Environment Agency throughout May to September, with samples taken from Clevedon Beach adjacent to Clevedon Marine Lake.  Poor water quality warnings for the estuary are issued on-line and often coincide with periods of heavy rain, causing run-off from the land.

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.

Polar Bears go the distance – once again!

Clevedon Marine Lake is run by Marlens’ charity and its team of volunteers, who work hard year-round to maintain and develop this amazing space.

It costs £20,000 per annum to keep Clevedon Marine Lake open to the public.

£5,000 alone is required each year to dredge hundreds of tonnes of mud out of the lake, as part of a 10-year programme to remove 5,000 tonnes of mud from the lakebed.  The mud is two feet deep in some areas having accumulated over the years, brought in by the overtopping tides from the Severn Estuary.

The initial application to remove mud from the lake cost £10,000.  Marlens has secured permission from Marine Management Organisation to dredge the lake twice a year, in the autumn and spring, over the next decade – which began last year.

The lake was dredged in October 2019 where 400 tonnes of silt and mud was removed, and again in March 2020 with an estimated 750 tonnes of silt and mud removed from the bed of the lake.  Until then, the last time any mud was removed from Clevedon Marine Lake was in the summer of 2015 as part of a major refurbishment.

It is important to ‘keep on top of the mud’ from now on – and with each dredge costing around £2,500, the entire project requires in excess of £60,000.

There are many ways in which you can Help us Help the Lake.  Simply click on the link and explore how you can make a difference.  And if you fancy something more immersive…

A great fundraising scheme which has been running for 3 years at Clevedon Marine Lake is the Polar Bear Challenge, thanks to organisers Hilary Jenkins-Spangler (pictured) and Gavin Price, members of Clevedon Lake & Sea Swimmers.

Every year during the winter months, November to March, lots of brave swimmers challenge themselves to swim regularly in the cold waters of Clevedon Marine Lake, incentivised by the Polar Bear Challenge.  The challenge requires participants to swim a minimum of 100m twice a month.  One way to rack up the required distance is a 100m circuit around the lake’s much-loved pontoon.

This season 2019-20, the Polar Bear Challenge raised close to £800 to support Marlens.  Well done and thank you Clevedon Polar Bears for enjoying the cold water and making a difference!

 

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.

 

More than 91 years of Clevedon Marine Lake

Clevedon Marine Lake was officially opened in 1929, following over a century’s tradition of sea bathing in Clevedon.

The original idea for enclosing part of Salthouse Bay was first documented in meeting records in 1896, but unanimously rejected as somewhat ‘pie in the sky’.

But thanks to Councillor Frederick Robert Nutting, who believed that a sea lake would be a great asset to Clevedon, on March 30th, 1929, the Lord Mayor of Bristol, Councillor W H Eyles officially opened Clevedon Marine Lake and the recreation ground on Salthouse Fields. Councillor Nutting was the architect, figuratively speaking.

In October 1926, Councillor Nutting persuaded the Council to revisit the idea of enclosed swimming baths in Salthouse Bay. Mr Gower Pimm was appointed the consultant engineer, suggesting the lake would need a wall 10ft high, costing £5,440. The greenlight for the project was given by the Ministry of Health in July 1927, and approval for the scheme gained by Mr Gower Pimm from the Mercantile Board of Trade. Councillor Nutting purchased land on the foreshore, with his own money, some of which he gifted to the town. The Crown sold the rights to the foreshore to the town for £150. Councillor Nutting sold Salthouse woods to the Council at cost, to enable access to Poet’s Walk, and Sir Ambrose Elton generously ceded his right to the paths.

In September 1927, tenders were put out for the scheme. The building contract specified that 90% of the labour was to be undertaken by local, unemployed people, to aid community revitalisation post-WWI. Seventeen tenders were considered, but the contract was awarded to Messrs J Moore & Co. of Nailsea for £5,195 and 6d. Work began after March 1928, on a slightly reduced plan, enclosing an area of three and a half acres and incorporating an 875ft promenade.

The lake was in use for boating and bathing in August 1928 and run by the Council for the first year.

Before WWI, Clevedon Aquatic Sports was responsible for running regattas off The Beach. With bathing’s popularity rising alongside the development of Clevedon’s seafront, sea swimming races were a regular attraction in the summer months.

Clevedon Amateur Swimming Club (CASC) was formed in January 1929, to “promote swimming, organise galas and run the Long Swim”, which was first held in 1927. The opening of Clevedon Marine Lake meant that the Club could become affiliated to the Amateur Swimming Association, bringing many of the West of England Championships to the town. CASC’s first gala, held on July 20th, 1929 attracted a massive crowd. A water polo team was formed, which lasted until the mid-50s; they played local teams as well as Welsh opponents brought across the estuary on the Campbell Steamer. After WWII, the Club offered Royal Life Saving Society badges and the Amateur Diving Association Diploma. In the 1980s, the Club moved all but its diving activities to Strode Road’s indoor pool.

As well as the socio-economic and recreational benefits, the construction of the new marine lake also brought an end to ‘stinking corner’, where seaweed and sea rot accumulated, only to fill the air with unpleasant odours!

The Ministry of Health approved a further loan of £1,500 for a bandstand, shelter and bathing stations, which were sanctioned in March 1929. Over the next 15 years, Clevedon Marine Lake was lavishly equipped with a timber clubhouse and changing-room, high diving and springboards, a bathing raft, deckchairs, a row of bathing huts and a bandstand – and remained a much loved, Victorian seaside attraction.  After WWII, its popularity boomed, with busy promenades surrounded by water sports, donkey rides, boats for hire and a miniature railway.

For 30 years from 1957, during the summer holidays, the lake was managed by Joyce Gregory and her daughter Rita.  Rita, a member of Clevedon Swimming Club, was a very accomplished competitive swimmer and diver, who made good use of the facilities; she won the Ladies Cup 19 times in Clevedon Long Swim!  Because the lake’s diving stage was not quite the 5 metres high required by County Championships, Rita practised off a board on the upper railings held down by a group of burly swimmers from the Club!

With an increase in foreign travel throughout the 1980s the use of the lake began to decline, as did the necessary finances to maintain it.  As a result of lack of maintenance and vandalism, Joyce and Rita called time on their tenure; swimming was banned at the lake and the access steps were removed.  However, Clevedon Sailing Club remained a stalwart supporter throughout this time, launching a fleet of Minnow dinghies in 1985 sponsored by local businesses, serving to buoy interest in sailing on the lake and in the estuary, to Woodspring Bay and Flatholm.

At midnight on 31st December 1999, Rita and Joyce fittingly welcomed in the new millennium by swimming in the lake.  Wrapped only in their towels, they walked up to the top of Dial Hill to watch the burning beacons along the estuary, just before the start of another chapter in the lake’s history.

MARLENS (Marine Lake Enthusiasts) was set up in 2004 by Councillor Arthur Knott, Clevedon Sailing Club’s Cadet Officer, to lobby for the lake’s renaissance.  He recognised the importance and value of Clevedon Marine Lake to the local community.

As a result, and after much neglect, 2004 saw the lake’s fortunes change thanks to a community partnership that resulted in the lake being used for sailing, canoeing, open water swimming and model boat sailing.  The lake was subsequently promoted annually through Marlens’ community festival from 2005 to 2017, offering have-a-go sessions to the public, awakening North Somerset and Clevedon Town Councils’ interest in the amenity’s potential.

In 2014 the Heritage Lottery Fund awarded an £800,000 grant to Marlens to help make Clevedon Marine Lake ‘as good as new’, in partnership with North Somerset Council, Clevedon Town Council and Clevedon Civic Society.  The £1m renovation project was undertaken from April to September 2015, rolling back 80 years of pounding by the sea and giving the lake a new lease of life.  Take a look at the lake’s restoration album here.

In recognition of the amazing work undertaken by volunteers from 2004 to 2015, Marlens is proud and delighted to have been awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service for 2016 following the lake’s renovation.  It’s the highest award a voluntary group can receive in the UK.

MARLENS, the charity behind the lake, continues to fund raise toward the management and further development of Clevedon Marine Lake for all to enjoy.  Find out how you can Help us Help the Lake – H2L – and help Clevedon Marine Lake become a double nonagenarian!

Clevedon’s sea bathing heritage

Clevedon Marine Lake is a piece of aquatics history, born out of a sea swimming heritage pre-dating the first, annual Clevedon Long Swim in 1927. Today, both Clevedon Marine Lake and Clevedon’s seawaters are a regular training ground for long distance swimmers who have swum the world over, and the lake provides a calmer environment for all water lovers – recreational, competitive and endurance.

The first reference to sea bathing in Clevedon dates to 1823 when four bathing machines made their summer debut on Clevedon Beach adjacent to the Pier.  Although 75 years behind Scarborough, the advent of sea bathing in Clevedon coincided with the town’s growing popularity as a resort, and the trend toward bathing for enjoyment as opposed to therapy.

In 1828, Samuel Taylor of Hutton purchased a plot of land just north of the Pier, where he constructed a house and created a sea pool for swimmers to shelter from the 47 ft tidal range of the estuary.  This entrepreneurial venture enabled Taylor to capitalise on the growing number of people wishing to bathe in sea water.  However, the site became derelict as the decades rolled by, and eventually the outer wall of the pool collapsed into the sea in 1905.

Yet, before the end of the 19th century, options for more suitable bathing facilities in Clevedon were under discussion amongst Clevedon Local Board of Health, soon to become the Council.  They were slow to progress however, eclipsed by the purchase of the Pier in 1890.  Subsequently, when a man attending a public meeting of ratepayers in 1896 suggested enclosing Salthouse Bay to form a lake at a cost of £12,000, it was unanimously condemned as little more than amusing!

Since the official opening of Clevedon Marine Lake in March 1929, thousands of children have not only been taught to swim in the lake, but also trained weekly over the summer months as members of Clevedon Swimming Club.  The lake was roped off into lanes for training and galas.  In the 1930s, Somerset County swimming competitions were held in the lake, including springboard and high diving events.

Until the 80s, the lake was owned and maintained by Clevedon Urban District Council and after that, Woodspring County Council, at which time it became victim to financial cuts during the 1990/1 recession.

During 1980s and 90s, although Clevedon Marine Lake fell into disrepair, it was never abandoned, and quietly nurtured long-distance swimmers who have swum the world over.  One of a handful of such swimmers is Steve Price, who went on to become the first man to complete the 3-Channels’ challenge, by swimming the English, Bristol and Irish Channels.  In 1999, Anders Frappell succeeded in his crossing of the English Channel thanks to hours in the lake.  And in August 2007, Gary Carpenter, a member of Clevedon Amateur Swimming Club was the youngest swimmer to cross the Bristol Channel, aged 16.  Not only covering a swim distance of 18 miles from Penarth to Clevedon, he battled the third highest tidal range in the world.

Many successful long-distance swims have since been achieved thanks to Clevedon Marine Lake and its enduring accessibility as a training ground – as a result of the lake’s renaissance in 2015, championed by MARLENS, the charity behind the lake.

Take a look at the lake’s historic album here.

As part of the Heritage Lottery bid to renovate Clevedon Marine Lake, North Somerset Council asked Civic Society member and local historian Jane Lilly to write about the history of the lake and the emergence of swimming as a pastime in Clevedon.  Grateful thanks go to Jane for providing the foundation for much of the detail in this BLOG.