June 30th 2012: Today is the last day to swim the tidal Thames in London
Reaction is varied. The London Evening Standard reports former Tory MP Matthew Parris as branded the ban “absolutely pathetic,” whereas Daniel Start author of several books on wild swimming said: “In principle I don’t support banning wild swimming but with the Thames it is sensible, it is a tidal river that is dangerous.”
Without a doubt this is a very busy stretch of river. With tides as high as 17 meters, strong currents and the sometimes polluted water, the Thames is a less than attractive option to most swimmers. Even so the ban highlights a disparity between attitudes in the UK and those aboard where choice when it comes to venue is left to the swimmer.
Interestingly the man who won the first 15 mile swim through London in 1907 was Leicester Olympian John/Jack Jarvis. He brought fame to his hometown by winning Gold at the Paris Olympics in the Seine (1900). Having learned to swim in Leicester’s Grand Union Canal, I’m sure he would be horrified to see, in this Olympic year, the restrictions imposed on river swimmers, not just in the Capital, but also the complete ban on open water swimming in his home town of Leicester.
To see just how much has been lost when it comes to swimming freedom; take a look at the list of river swimming venues open in England just 100 years ago: Look, Listen, Swim: 2012.