Skip to main content

Stay safe in the cold

As we go into the winter season, here is some information about cold water swimming and water quality at Clevedon Marine Lake.

Be bold in the cold

It’s no secret that cold water dipping has amazing mental health and wellbeing benefits. Over the past year, especially since Covid struck, we have seen so many more people trying out winter swimming.

But it is an extreme sport with very real risks to your health, even death. Last year, we saw lots of people getting ill because they didn’t know these risks. Please make sure you learn how to swim safely before trying out cold water swimming:

Winter water quality

We stop testing the water quality in Clevedon Marine Lake from October 1st. Why? Because cold water kills bacteria. Also, fewer people use the lake than in the summer and that means the water is likely to remain good or excellent. Our last test of the summer on September 27th 2021 showed that the water quality was excellent.

The only time to be careful is when Surfers Against Sewage puts out a pollution warning in the sea AND this coincides with the lake being topped over (high tide height >12.6m).

Happy winter swimming. Stay safe.

Red flag: poor water quality

Despite our best efforts, the water quality in Clevedon Marine Lake is still poor. On July 21st 2021 we took a water sample from the lake that showed a higher level of bacteria than is acceptable for bathing water. We closed the lake and drained the water from the lake so that it could be topped over with fresh water from the sea. But, on July 27th, the sample was still poor against EU bathing water standards.

Why did this happen?

Water quality drops when one of two things happen:

  1. We have a heatwave. Lots of people use the lake and the water temperature goes up.
  2. The water that fills the lake from the Bristol Channel is of poor quality. This happens when storm sewers are allowed to overflow into the sea and when rain washes farm waste off the fields and into the rivers.

In July 2021 both these things happened. First of all, we had a heatwave. Crowds flocked to the marine lake to cool off. Every human body is alive with bacteria that usually lives harmlessly on our bodies, but this washes off in the water. Add sunscreen, bait for crabs and litter, and the amount of new bacteria in the water goes up. On top of this, many feet stir up the mud at the bottom of the lake blocking the sun’s ultra-violet rays that kill bacteria. Also, the water temperature becomes too warm to kill off the bacteria.

After we drained the lake, it topped over with the sea during a pollution warning. Storm Evert brought with it heavy rain. This meant that run-off from the fields polluted the rivers that run into the sea. Water companies also opened their storm overflow sewers releasing sewage into the sea. To find out more about this issue, read here or check out Surfers Against Sewage.

Can I still swim?

The red flags at Clevedon Marine Lake are flying. This means that we don’t recommend using the lake. If you do decide to swim, kayak or paddle there, please take extra care by:

  • hand sanitising your hands as soon as you get out of the water
  • washing your hands as soon as possible
  • having a shower when you get home
  • avoiding putting your head in the water, or if you do, wearing earplugs and goggles.

If you are immuno-compromised or pregnant, please seek medical advice before you swim. Here is a good guide to keeping in good health in open water.

Myth busting water quality

There are lots of myths and rumours on social media about the water quality in Clevedon Marine Lake, so we thought that we’d set the record straight.

Myth #1: The water in Clevedon Marine Lake is dirty

We test the water regularly from April to October. Since we started testing, 80% of the results have been good or excellent. To put that another way, we have had 8 weeks of poor water quality since summer 2018. The lake is usually cleaner than the sea and rivers.

Myth #2: The lake is full of dog poo

‘I heard that when the lake was drained they found a load of dog poo bags at the bottom.’ This is one of the best untruths we saw on Facebook. This didn’t happen. It’s true that bacteria on animals and humans get into the water, which is why we don’t have dogs in or by the lake. But, poor water quality is caused by a combination of four things:

  1. Warmer water temperatures. The lake is quite small and can reach 30 degrees centigrade, which is the perfect temperature for bacteria.
  2. More people in the lake. People bring germs.
  3. Mud getting stirred up. When people stir up the mud in the bottom, it blocks the sun’s UV rays which would naturally kill bacteria.
  4. Big gaps between over-topping tides. The tide must be higher than 12.6 metres to refresh the lake.

Myth #3: The lake’s brown colour is dirt.

Clevedon has the highest tidal range in the world. This means that the silt in the sea never settles. This doesn’t mean that the water’s dirty, but it does cause problems. The mud settles on the floor of the lake where it becomes compacted and stagnant. We drain the lake every March and October for a week to dig out as much mud as we can — this costs £10k a year!

Myth #4: Diet cola kills germs from wild swimming

This doesn’t say much for diet cola, but some swear that it kills bugs from open water. However, it is a good plan to wash after you swim in wild (not treated with chlorine) lakes, pools and the sea. Wash your hands before you eat and have a shower when you get home.

You can help us

Clevedon Marine Lake is run by volunteers. You can support our charity to keep the water clean by:

  • Taking all litter home with you
  • Keeping your dog away from the lake
  • Not using bacon for crab bait
  • Donating so that we can keep on testing the water and draining the lake to clear out the mud

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.

Bank holiday water quality excellent

The latest water sample taken to the lab on August 24th showed that the water quality in Clevedon Marine Lake was once again excellent.

Thanks to the volunteers who take the water samples and clean and tidy the lake. You can help by:

  • Not taking your dog to the lake — dogs carry bacteria that’s harmful to human health
  • Taking home your litter
  • Volunteering to help litter pick and clean
  • Donating to Clevedon Marine Lake

Water quality is excellent

July 27th: Water quality is excellent

The water quality in Clevedon Marine Lake is excellent. We took a sample for testing on July 27th 2020, and the lab found that the water had very low levels of bacteria. This is great news for the summer holidays as it means the water is safe to swim in.

Help us keep the lake clean

There are a few things that you can do to help keep the water clean and safe for all:

  • Wash before you go for a swim and try not to use lots of moisturiser, sun cream, hair oils etc before swimming
  • Make sure that no dogs go in or around the lake: animals carry bacteria
  • Take all your litter home with you
  • Avoid over-crowding: if the lake’s really busy, come back another time

Bathing water standards are set by the EU.

Water quality is excellent

Latest water quality tests: Excellent

We took a sample of water from Clevedon Marine Lake on July 10th, and we’re pleased to report that the test shows that the water is still excellent.

What does this mean?

Bathing water quality standards are set by the EU. They tell us how much bacteria can be in the water without harming our health. When the water quality is excellent, that means that there are very low levels of harmful bacteria and the water is safe to swim in.

Help us keep the lake clean

There are a few things that you can do to help keep the water clean and safe for all:

  • Wash before you go for a swim and try not to use lots of moisturiser, sun cream, hair oils etc before swimming
  • Make sure that no dogs go in or around the lake: animals carry bacteria
  • Take your litter home with you
  • Avoid over-crowding: if the lake’s really busy, come back another time
When will the water get tested next?

The next test will be after the tide tops over the lake on July 27th.

Water quality is excellent

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.

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.

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.