Temperatures reached 29C in the capital over the weekend and hundreds flocked to the Serpentine to swim and cool off. Unable to accept that the Lido has been closed for the season (since September 12), hundreds jumped the fence to swim in the lake. Everyone was enjoying themselves until the police were called and they were chased out of the water.
Ironically here in the UK regulations restrict the use of a designated swimming area such as this, and fear of litigation resulted in six police officers being brought in to disperse the swimmers.
Even so the Serpentine is a comparatively safe swimming venue. Yet at the seaside swimmers face a number of risks and yet you are free to swim without the need of a lifeguard despite tides, waves and underwater currents. Why then are the police not called when swimmers jump into the sea?
Interestingly the HSE has recently amended its rule book in relation to swimming in open waters (HSG 179). It no longer requires lifeguards to be present at lakes where swimming is allowed, provided that swimming is ‘not actively promoted’. So you could reason that as the Serpentine was officially closed, swimming was not being promoted, and so the regulations requiring lifeguards might not apply.
A solution to all this legalistic wrangling has been discovered at the Cotswold Country Park. The Children’s Bathing Beach is especially popular in good weather and even when the lifeguards go home you can still swim, but in the knowledge that you have to look out for yourself and others.
To me this seems a sensible approach, one worthy of immitation!