Rivers are the most common body of inland water in the UK, and they do a marvellous job of keeping us all hydrated.
You’ll also be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t splashed around in a river– especially as a kid; it’s all part of the adventure and exploration of growing up!
Rivers are also known to be a tad dramatic at times, and if the weather isn’t on side – they can be a force to be reckoned with.
Many rivers are seemingly harmless, but when you get up close and personal with them, they can turn out to be less than friendly.
If you’re craving the excitement of water sports, why not try an accredited Beyond Swim venue instead of hopping in your local river? You can learn new skills, improve your open water swimming ability in a safe environment, and connect with like-minded swimmers!
We advise never swimming in rivers, but we know people will do it anyway…
So, let’s assess the safe way to approach river swimming so you don’t get on their wrong side!
Did you know, swimming in cold water will reduce the body’s temperature 32 times faster than normal cold air? This can cause you to go into shock, have cramps, make you struggle to breathe or worse, lead to drowning. Always test the water temperature before entering, even if it’s a mega hot day!
1. Avoid locks, weirs, pipes, and any other water features
A river’s current is often unknown from the surface, and when you approach locks, weirs, or trappings of water, you can find yourself being flipped into a washing machine-style abyss.
So it’s best to avoid going near water that is upstream of a weir or lock – the water here is likely to be at its strongest, and you can be whisked away in a heartbeat or even submerged, fighting against a not-so-forgiving current.
These features are man-made but are not designed for man to have fun in.
Don’t try to challenge them because, in the case of weir/lock vs you, the weir or lock will always win.
2. No jumping or diving
As with our previous blog on lakes, the same goes with rivers when it comes to diving.
And it’s a bit more common sense not to want to dive into a moving river.
Many of the UK’s rivers are also skinny little nippers and don’t possess enough water to cover your whole body to begin with.
Then they are moving…often rapidly, and at such force, you’ll end up sailing away like a paper boat.
And then there’s the fact that they are filled with rocks, foliage and sometimes (sadly) shopping trolleys!
Now, if you take a big old swan dive and find yourself mangled up in an Asda cart, we don’t know what to say other than we told you so.
Jokes aside, there’s a lot beneath those bustling rivers, so it’s best to get your swim shoes on and enter from a safe shallow section of the river.
Make a note of the surface texture, if there are any weeds or vines you could get trapped, and if there are any other unwanted items in there, it may be best to contact a local council about a clean-up.
3. Warn children of the dangers
We like to think that adults have a fair amount of the old common sense regarding water activities, but you’d be surprised.
On the flip side, most children think they are invincible, and when they see open water, they instantly want to be Aquaman.
Children are unlikely to assess any dangers or see a problem with trying to walk or swim across rivers when they are adventuring around with their mates.
So many young people find themselves in immediate danger from not knowing the risks, but the best thing you can do for water safety is teach ‘em young.
Let children know about the dangers of open water swimming.
Educate them on the precautions and tell them to ALWAYS avoid swimming without a responsible adult being present.
And even with an adult present, we advise only swimming at accredited or lifeguarded venues.
4. Watch out for that boat
The difference between boats and humans, other than the obvious, is that while a human can see a boat, a boat almost always can’t see the human.
You might be hard pressed to come across a cruise liner or super yacht in a UK river, but barges, long boats, motorboats and some passenger and freight boats will be ambling about.
Even if you’re wearing a super bright lifejacket that you think could be seen from space, you’re likely to be missed by any of these on-coming water vehicles.
And it is their right of way…
Steer clear of going anywhere near docked boats because docked boats soon become moving boats, and be aware of any boats passing through your location.
Do some research before swimming to check if the river has regular boat traffic. If it does, don’t attempt to swim there.
Today’s Swimming Lesson:
Let’s just wind back a bit and go through a couple of highlights…
- Don’t get near any water infrastructure, or it’ll have you for dinner
- Don’t get tangled in a trolley, and don’t dive into rivers for any reason
- Keep the kids safe – they are the most at risk
- Don’t get in a fight with a boat – you won’t win
If you decide to swim somewhere that is not accredited or doesn’t have the correct facilities and supervision, you must be aware of your risks.
The tips we have provided are just that, tips. There are oodles of things to consider, so always keep yourself educated and up to date with the latest safety tips.
Our Beyond Swim Pass, Blog, and social media will help you do just that!