Wild swimming is everywhere these days, from the ladies’ ponds of Hampstead Heath in London to the revived tidal pools of Fife. And even though there’s been a bit of pushback over the risks – with scientists noting the dangers of cold shock response and sewage pollution – it’s certainly not going anywhere.
Now, following a two-year campaign by local campaigners, Bristol has opened up a new space in its harbour for wild swimmers to take a dip. A 400-metre watercourse has been cordoned off in the former industrial thoroughfare of Baltic Wharf, which was previously illegal to swim in.
Overlooked by the distinctive line of rainbow houses in the city’s Hotwells district, the swimming spot is right next to historic boatyard Underfall Yard. The site was chosen for its accessibility and water quality, which is currently rated ‘excellent’.
After an initial test swim in March, Bristol Council has launched a pilot allowing one-hour public swim sessions on Saturday and Sunday mornings, from 8am to 10am, until May 28. Up to 80 people will be allowed to swim in each one-hour session, which must be booked in advance online.
The council launched the pilot to respond to growing calls last year to scrap the unpopular ban on swimming in the harbour. Managed in partnership with the open-water specialists Uswim and All-Aboard Watersports – which offers kayaking, paddle boarding and sailing – sessions will cost £7 per person, with the fee contributing to running costs, safety boats and lifeguards.