A new safety code for swimmers in the Lake District is launched this week.
The “be keen to be seen” message follows negotiations between groups of lake users as open water swimming attracts a massive new following.
Thousands of people now take a plunge in the lakes, tarns and rivers every year.
The new swim-safe code spells out a hat, flag, float and boat message designed to make the Lakes a safer place for all users.
Working with event organisers, open water swim providers, commercial boat operators and Windermere Lake Users Forum, the Lake District National Park has produced 10,000 leaflets spelling out how swimmers can protect themselves from boat collisions and serious harm.
Lakes ranger Sara Spicer said the initiative followed concern that increasing numbers of swimmers in Windermere, Ullswater, Coniston Water and Derwentwater were at risk unless they followed some simple but effective guidelines.
She explained: “A bright hat is number one priority, followed by a tow float, and if a white and blue Alpha flag-flying support boat or kayak is available, particularly for groups of swimmers, so much the better.
“We are also encouraging people to swim in the quieter lakes and avoid the four main navigable lakes, which have many different users.
“Great North Swim, which sees 10,000 competitors in Windermere, the British Long Distance Swimming Association, boat companies, marinas, swimming providers and lake users from across the national park are all giving invaluable support.”
South Lakeland District Council lake wardens will be giving out tow floats to the swimmers they come across when they are out on patrol. These are also available to buy locally at Head to the Hills – Swim the Lake District in Ambleside..
Bright yellow and pink hats will also be given to difficult-to-see swimmers on navigable lakes. Swim event organisers will also be publicising the swim safe campaign.
“It is also important to remind boat users that there may be swimmers in the water who may be difficult to see,” added Sara. “Solo swimmers are particularly hard to see. It’s easy to forget that boats, particularly larger vessels, take time to change their course or stop if they need to avoid someone in the water.”
Head to the Hills – Swim the Lake District, who have provided open water swimming courses, events and guided swims across the Lake District since 2010, were involved in the development of the swim safe code.
Director Pete Kelly welcomed the swim safe code: “We have been providing safety advice for swimmers both formally through our courses and swims and informally through our swimming group.
“But as open water swimming in the Lake District becomes more popular it’s great to have the extra support this code will bring. It provides clear advice to both swimmers and boat users ensuring the risk of incidents are reduced and safety awareness is increased.”
Nigel Wilkinson, managing director of Windermere Lake Cruises, which carries in excess of 1.25 million passengers a year, said: “We are genuinely concerned about the consequences of a collision on Windermere and the swim safe code is an excellent initiative to help mitigate that risk”.
Further information on http://www.swimsafelakes.co.uk
For introduction to open water swimming in the Lake District see http://www.headtothehills.co.uk