Providing a safe space for open water swimming in Bristol

Bristol's Harbour is pictured, with houses in the background and boats in the foreground. White text in the bottom left corner of the image reads: Harbour swimming pilot to launch in March. The Mayor of Bristol's logo can also be seen.

Open water swimming has become increasingly popular over recent years and we know there are many groups and individuals in Bristol who want the opportunity to enjoy it safely.

It can be hard to imagine when you’re faced with the thought of wading out into cold water but there are proven health benefits. Cold water swimming can boost your immune system, metabolism, and increase happiness- so why shouldn’t we give it a go? We have listened to people’s requests for a safe swimming space in our harbour and have been working with local and experienced partners to explore how we can make this a reality.

Bristol’s harbour is a working area in an integral part of the city. To make sure we can offer an area that is safe to swim there must be measures in place to ensure the health and safety of all harbour users. This means having an area of our harbour cordoned-off to create a course specifically for swimming which can be safely accessed. There will be lifeguards and safety boats to help to keep people using the swimming facility safe. Otherwise it remains unsafe to swim in the harbour or other waterways in Bristol, as we continue to highlight through safety campaigns and signage around the docks.

We have also been working with partners like Wessex Water to check the water quality and look at how we can put in place additional testing to ensure it is safe before allowing people into the water.  We have been drawing on the expertise of All Aboard, based alongside the Cottage, and Uswim, the open water swim specialists who also operate sites around the country, and are working with them and local partners towards an open water swim trial for Bristol’s harbour this spring.

After an initial test swim in March, our aim is to run one-hour public swim sessions on Saturday and Sunday mornings for five weeks starting on 29 April. The sessions will be available to pre-book online at a cost of £7 per person – this small charge allows us to have in place the necessary water safety provisions. In the meantime, stay out of the harbour and swim at one of our city’s many pools.

This trial will allow us to assess whether or not we can provide a designated open water swimming area that is safe and financially sustainable – this is pertinent given the current financial challenges faced by the council in general and the harbour in particular.

Throughout the pilot we will monitor costs, up-take, and any impact on our ability to maintain a safe environment throughout our harbour. The health and safety of all harbour users is our first priority and, along with other members of the Bristol Water Safety Partnership, our harbour staff work hard to prevent accidents and maintain a safe waterway so that people can enjoy all our harbour has to offer. This cannot be compromised.