Swimming in any natural water comes with a risk, but there are a few things to be aware of heading for a dip in a lake or a river:
• Check the strength of the current before entering a river. A good way to do this is to throw a stick into the river. If it floats off faster than you can swim against, then you won’t be able to beat the current back upstream, so you should avoid swimming.
• Check your entry and exit points before getting in. It is best to plan a few different exit routes. Riverbeds and the banks of lakes can get muddy and slippery, especially after wet weather or heavy usage, so it’s best to have other exit routes already planned.
• Gauge the depth of the river or lake before jumping in. Enter the water and check how deep it is and that you can’t feel any unseen obstacles beneath you when you’re in the water.
• Don’t drink the water – after heavy rain, pollutants that are harmful to humans can get washed off the land and spill into the water.
• Try to go swimming with someone else or let someone know where you’re heading so that if you do get into any danger, someone can raise the alarm for you.
• Give yourself time to acclimatise to the cold water. UK rivers and lakes will remain cool even in the height of summer, so wear a wetsuit until you get more used to the cooler water temperature.
• Consider using a tow float or swim cap to make yourself more visible to others.
• Consider taking a dry bag or swim bag with you on your swim to keep all your essentials safe and dry. Dry bags are especially handy if you want to swim downriver and not return to where you got in, as you can carry everything you need with you on your swim.