Dale Dyke Reservoir

Dale Dyke Reservoir

South Yorkshire

S6 6LE
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We have access to a couple of refreshingly cold rivers in which to take a dip in summer (and, for the brave, in winter too), but only one of these has uncontested access and they are good for a dip but not a “proper” swim. Tonight, a hot August evening, we decide we want to do at least a kilometre. We park along the road at the Eastern side of the reservoir and take the ten-minute stroll along a quiet woodland path to the reservoir edge. The beauty is slightly spoiled by a no swimming sign.

It all sounds plausible but… it’s also not quite true. There might be a high risk of drowning if you are not a swimmer, and you end up in the water accidentally, or you’ve been drinking alcohol. But for experienced swimmers, this isn’t true. Regular outdoor swimmers also spend time building up resilience to cold water, and in the summer the top layer of water can be a lovely 22-26 degrees C, with even the colder lower layers being not as cold as claimed (and refreshing in a heatwave).

There are plenty of safe places to enter an exit the water, and some nice beach areas to lounge on. When the water levels drop, you can see no exposed machinery so then you know you’re safe when the water levels rise – we all know there’s nothing under the water! Most swimmers keep away from the dam end of a reservoir when they swim, just in case these otherwise unknown bits of machinery or currents appear.

The water was gorgeous today, really warm. When I swim alone, I tend to stick to the shoreline as it’s warmer and easy to get out if I’m not feeling right. Today I had a swim buddy so we went across and back a couple of times, enjoying the slightly cooler water in the middle of the reservoir where its deeper. Outdoor swimming is a safe activity when someone knows how to swim – as the statistics at RoSPA show – https://www.flipsnack.com/rospacatalogue/rospa-managing-safety-at-inland-waters.html. Many swimmers take floats, although we didn’t today.

In the past, the water company has sent guards in high-viz with dogs, blowing whistles and shouting at us to get out of the water. This seems to have calmed down a lot this year, and we’ve had a few lovely swims uninterrupted by guards. I hope this is a sign that Yorkshire Water are going to become more accepting of us swimming in their reservoirs. Across Scotland and much of the EU it is permitted to swim in reservoirs, and they are not inundated with drownings and legal claims, so fingers crossed this happens for us here too.

We swim, we laze on the bank, and then we head home. Sometimes we do a bit of litter picking but today it is all clean and tidy. We hope to campaign for more swimming access at reservoirs – water companies are obliged to make provision for leisure activities (s3 of the Water Industry Act 1991) but so far this has mostly been for walkers. Fingers crossed swimming, with all its health benefits, starts to become allowed – and even encouraged – too.

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