The campaign to allow safe swimming in Bristol’s harbour has raged for a long time. Swimming in Bristol’s harbour, as well as the River Avon in the city, is illegal under a council bylaw. Organisations like Swim Bristol Harbour, have long wanted local authorities to scrap it. So last year, when Bristol City Council said it could pilot a safe swimming spot in the harbour, campaigners were overjoyed.
The Council is sticking to its word too. It will pilot a cordoned off, 200-metre course in the Baltic Wharf every Saturday and Sunday morning. Swimmers will have to pay £7 an hour, however, to take a dip in Bristol’s harbour. With up to 80 people allowed in each one-hour session, which must be booked in advance.
The pilot will start April 29 until May 28, running for five weekends from 8am and 10am. An access ramp will sit in front of the Cottage pub, with lifeguards, safety boats, and water quality sampling also on hand during the pilot.
“Open water swimming has become increasingly popular over recent years and we know there are many groups and individuals in Bristol who want the opportunity to enjoy it safely,” said Marvin Rees, Bristol Mayor, on his blog.
“It can be hard to imagine when you’re faced with the thought of wading out into cold water but there are proven health benefits. Cold water swimming can boost your immune system, metabolism, and increase happiness- so why shouldn’t we give it a go? We have listened to people’s requests for a safe swimming space in our harbour and have been working with local and experienced partners to explore how we can make this a reality.”
Is Bristol’s harbour safe to swim in?
According to Swim Bristol Harbour, regular tests for E-Coli prove the Floating Harbour’s water quality is “so good that often it’s registered at the ‘excellent’ standard for bathing waters.” Other tests near Bristol Bridge and Netham Lock, however, have shown poor water quality and very high levels of E.Coli bacteria.
Other risks include the threat of ‘cold water shock’: When your body hits the water, it can sometimes cause dramatic changes in breathing, heart rate and blood pressure. But Swim Bristol Harbour also note that regular testing, a safe space to enter and exit the water, and providing education on cold water swimming can make the harbour a safe and enjoyable resource for all. Very soon, Bristol could have another amazing outdoor swimming spot on its hands.