The City of Leicester was once at the hub of British swimming, and in a sense it still is!
The world's first great swimming Olympians emerged from the City's magnificent river swimming facilities. It's hard to believe that all 8 lidos and 5 paddling pools have been closed and that swimming restrictions have chased swimmers away from the city's rivers and lakes.
Swimmers are now confined to indoor pools.
Swimming popularity is in steady decline.
Outdoor swimming is discouraged.
There are more than 1,300 EU designated inland bathing waters in France and more than 1,900 in Germany. At one time there were at least 12 river bathing areas in Leicester alone, but now there are just 12 in the entire country. The safety of swimmers is often highlighted as the reason for our restrictive approach to open water, yet we experience comparatively the same rate of drowning as countries that encourage outdoor swimming at every opportunity. Rather than prevent drowning, our failure to educate children, thus empowering them to swim safely in rivers and lakes, and our insistence on restricting swimming in the great outdoors, has transformed the British swimming experience from the fun, adventurous, exciting recreation it once was, into a cold, damp, memory of childhood swimming lessons. It's rather like teaching people to run on a treadmill without ever allowing them outside to run free in the fresh air and sunshine.
In stark contrast to attitudes in Leicester; Birmingham City Council has turned its back on a decades old bylaw prohibiting outdoor swimming in the cities lakes and ponds. Sandwell Council have granted people the freedom to swim at their own risk in Swan Pool on Park Lane, whenever they wish.
The National Trust encourages swimming in Church Stretton Reservoir in Shropshire. A sign gives safety advice with a throw line, and buoys marking the 1.4 m depth for safety.
Closer to home, Rutland Water has opened a bathing beach attracting swimmers from miles around. Free swimming all summer long is enhanced by a number of lifeguards’s whose expenses are handsomely covered by car parking charges and an array of other beachside attractions. Rutland-on-Sea seemed unthinkable just a few years ago, but today it is one of the most popular tourist attractions on the lake side.
Will tolerance and liberty welcome swimmers back to the wild in Leicester? Only time will tell!
If you are intrigued by the contrast between attitudes in the UK compared to the rest of Europe, discover why the swimmer was Hung Out to Dry and get a 30% discount by clicking the link…