Wild Swimming Picture of the Week: Cotswold Water Park


Cotswold Water Park


Cotswold Water Park

“British culture has changed unrecognisably over the last hundred years. Modern concerns over water quality, health and safety are not going to evaporate overnight, and nor should they. Even so, bathing in the great outdoors should not quickly be dismissed as impractical. It truly is possible to marry our modern concerns for hygiene and safety with our desire to swim in a natural environment.

Opened in 1981, the beach at Keynes Country Park[1] is a practical example of just what can be achieved when the desire to provide such facilities is strong enough to overcome the first few obstacles. Advertised as the Children’s Bathing Beach, one of the many disused gravel pits that make up the Cotswold Water Park[2] has been developed into a leisure area that families can enjoy in safety. The swimming area is clearly defined with shallow water near the beach, gently shelving to about six feet below the wooden boom that separates swimmers from the rest of the lake. Lifeguards are on duty, keeping a watchful eye on the proceedings. Their periodic announcements over the tannoy are the only reminder that we are still in good old England. The beach itself consists of rounded pea gravel and sand; the water remains mostly clear and pleasantly warm. Barley straw is employed to avoid any possibility of algal development, and rodent control dispels fear over other  undesirables.  Thankfully,  beyond  the boom a wire mesh restricts the movement of fish, keeping them out of the swimming area. Some of the fish are bigger than many of the children who bathe here! The water quality is regularly checked by the Environment Agency, and by way of final reassurance, a large blue flag (clean beach award) waved in the wind adjacent to the lifeguards station up until 2004. Since then it has not been applied for partly due to the high costs involved.

How has all of this been paid for? At first simply by charging people to park their cars near to the lake, whereas now individuals pay as they enter the complex.[3] The popularity of the setting ensures its success. Adjacent to the lake, play areas delight the children; a shore side café revives the adults, and a visitor centre gives the whole place a holiday feel. Although it is possible to use other water areas nearby for canoeing, sailing, windsurfing etc, the vast majority of visitors arrive with cars brimming with inflatable boats, deckchairs and play equipment. They head for the beach, which fills to overflowing. The children play happily, enjoying the water whenever the sun shines.

If anyone doubts that open water swimming is practical for today, I would encourage them to visit this water park to see firsthand just how we as a nation are missing out on what nature has to offer!”  Hung Out to Dry, Swimming and British Culture 2012


Cotswold Country Park & Beach


[1] Cotswold Country Park.


[2] The largest area of man-made lakes in Europe.


[3] The amount varies with the season but children are always very much discounted.

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Take a trip back in time! Discover just how many official ASA recommended outdoor swimming facility's were available to a nation keen to take the plunge back in 1912...

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