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The charity making life better by water

Open water swimming FAQs

Please read our frequently asked questions on open water swimming.

Why can't I swim in the canal to cool off in the summer?

Trust Byelaws do not permit swimming in our canals. Generally, canals are shallow, there are many unseen hazards and water quality is not suitable for swimming. In addition, they are operation spaces with moving boats, weirs, sluices and locks making them unsuitable and unsafe for swimming.

Why are some locations deemed OK for open water swimming whilst others are not?

There are many reasons why some venues are more suitable than others for open water swimming. The Trust takes the view that where swimming is permitted it should be supervised to a recognised standard, supported by a basic level of facilities to ensure people are safe and can have a positive experience.

Why isn't the water safe to swim in? Surely if Canal & River Trust were doing their job we'd be able to swim in the water?

The Trust is acting proactively to identify waters that are suitable for swimming and to engage with local partners to facilitate opportunities. Canal water does not ‘flow' like rivers and can carry pollutants from boat traffic and discharges that do not quickly disperse. There are also hidden dangers under the water.

What do I do if there is an approved waterway near me, but I can't find a suitable club? I really want to swim out in the open.

At this point in time we can only engage with organisations who are able to deliver safe swimming opportunities and obtain Sh2out accreditation. We will do our best to put you in contact with organisations that may help to get you started.

How can you have people swimming in the water? What about coronavirus?

Swimming in open water has a range of risks including water borne diseases/infection. Swimming at an approved/accredited site ensures that swimmers will get information about how to keep themselves safe. For more guidance on copen water swimming and coronavirus please click here.

What should I do if I see wild swimmers in the water?

All reports of wild swimming should be logged and sent through to Customer Services.

Are there any bathroom facilities at the open water swimming sites?

Each venue is different. The local group organising opportunities will actively promote facilities at each site.

Are applications for new open water swimming clubs being affected by the pandemic?

The process can take several months under normal circumstances. Government restrictions, local and national lockdowns can all have an effect on practical elements of any required planning and the Sh2out accreditation process, making the process take longer. However, there are still plenty of things that can be done, even during the highest level of restrictions, that will move your enquiry forward. So we advise that you allow plenty of time to become accredited and licenced by making an initial enquiry at your very earliest opportunity.

Last Edited: 15 March 2021

photo of a location on the canals
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