It’s been remarkable to see the positive response to our Harbour swimming pilot, which came to a close over the Whitsun bank holiday weekend. These swim sessions have been immensely popular, all selling out in advance even when additional spaces were made available.
We began with 80 swimmers per session and gradually increased spaces to 150 in response to demand, and to accommodate those who missed out after the swim sessions on the 6 and 7 May were cancelled due to the impact of the fire at Underfall Yard.
I know many of you will have seen the images of the devastating fire at Underfall Yard earlier this month. Although works are expected to begin soon, with a crane due on site next week to lower the burnt overhead beams and allow for a structural survey to be carried out safely, Underfall Yard Visitor Centre and Café remain open as usual to visitors and customers. Most of the businesses based at the yard are still trading and events are being planned to take place throughout the summer.
Over the five weeks, we ran eight two-hour swim sessions with a total of 653 swimmers taking a dip in Baltic Wharf. We took an amazing 920 bookings for sessions, not including the 200 for the cancelled sessions. The water quality was tested throughout the pilot and consistently met Excellent Bathing Water Standards. We also monitored costs, popularity, and any impact on our ability to maintain a safe environment and will be reviewing this information along with feedback from participants and the wider public.
I’ve really enjoyed hearing people’s stories of their experiences and the vibrant, uplifting atmosphere in Baltic Wharf during the swimming sessions. It’s been a great activity to bring to the city. We’re continuing our work and discussions with our partners, Uswim and All-Aboard Water Sports, to look at the possibility of providing a designated open water swimming area in the Harbour on a regular basis.
Feedback received so far has been very positive, with swimmers commenting on how well organised the sessions were, the friendly and supportive staff on hand and how great an opportunity it was to swim in the Harbour with the picturesque views of Bristol beside you.
Initial survey responses show that the majority of swimmers:
- were very satisfied with their Harbour swimming experience
- strongly agreed or agreed that the pilot was good value for money
- rated the location in the Harbour used for the swimming pilot as a very good place to swim
- are keen to return once a week or more if we make swimming sessions a permanent feature in the Harbour
We’re keen to hear from people who swam during our pilot sessions to find out more about what they thought of their Harbour swimming experience. Your feedback will help us understand how we might adapt the swim sessions and facilities (including for changing and storing belongings) to best meet swimmers’ needs, if the decision is made to continue swimming sessions beyond our pilot. So, I’d encourage anyone who has received a link to our online survey to complete it and submit your answers.
A huge thank you goes out to everyone, especially to the volunteers, who made sure that those taking part had a safe and enjoyable Harbour swimming experience, and in doing so contributed to the success and positive response to our pilot.
Please do remember, and continue to share with others, that, without prior consent from the Harbour Master, it remains unsafe and against the bylaws to swim in the Harbour, Cumberland Basin, or other waterways in Bristol.
Our city’s Harbour is a working one, with boats and other watercraft of varying sizes moving up and down the surface throughout the day. Without professional safety supervision and direction, there are a number of significant dangers associated with entering Bristol’s waterways. These include cold water shock, getting hit by a boat, hazardous or discarded objects under the water and occasional very strong currents due to tides.
Please stay out of the water and continue to use one of the many pools available in the city or formal open water swimming venues outside of Bristol. If you get into trouble near the water, or notice someone who needs help in the water, call 999 and ask for the Fire and Rescue Service.