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The GOS would like to encourage everyone to have a look at the website of The River and Lake Swimming Association. It's an excellent site packed with interesting stuff - for instance, clear explanations of the law of trespass, or where you stand legally if you want to swim in any kind of what they call "wild water", i.e. not a swimming pool but a river, lake, reservoir or the sea.
 
It also makes some interesting points about Elfin Safety - in particular the lies they use in their efforts to control us and make themselves important ("The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule." - H.L.Mencken).
 
For instance, in 2000, giving evidence in the case of Darby v The National Trust, Rebecca Kirkwood who is water safety consultant for RoSPA told the Court of Appeal " approx 450 people drown in the UK, the preponderance of these being young men swimming in open water."
 

 
On the other hand BBC TV "Country File" in 2003 introduced a programme on river swimming by stating that 170 people drowned in rivers every year. This is true, but includes people who fell in, drunks, fishermen and motorists.
 
Then there was the East Anglian Daily Times which in 2004 quoted RoSPA: "250 people drowning in the UK's inland waters every year."
 
In an unprecedented attack on wild swimming associating it with drug and even gun-related crimes, the BBC reported that in 2001 that 40 people drowned in inland water in the North West of England. The information was provided by RoSPA. In fact, that year only 33 people drowned while swimming in the whole of the UK. Nine of them were in swimming pools.
 
Confused? You should be. None of these reports is correct, or even remotely close to the truth. Here are some other facts from the website - ones we suspect are a little closer to reality
 
• only 4 people drowned while swimming in freshwater rivers in 2002
 
• river & lake drowning while swimming average at about 7 a year
 
• overall drowning figures are remarkably constant year-on-year, and a realistic annual figure for drowning-while-swimming is 37 which includes rivers, lakes, swimming-pools and the sea. Not quite 450, then. Compare this with the number of deaths caused by activities like mountaineering, cycling or motor-cycling
 
What the Elfin Safety lobby really want is to stop anyone from swimming altogether. If they can't manage that, they'll try and persuade us to do it under professional supervision like good little children, at a swimming-pool or a guarded beach. Their advice, as quoted by the BBC, is "Don't risk your life. On a hot day cool down on the beach or in a swimming bath". So on a hot summer day we're to pile the kids into the car, spend hours on overcrowded roads polluting the atmosphere and risking being involved in a road accident, only to arrive at a crowded beach where you can easily lose sight of the kids who can be swept away by tidal currents or waves or risk them being stung by jellyfish or Weaver fish. Or take them to the local, crowded, indoor swimming pool and risk damaging their lungs in a mixture of chlorine and piss.
 
A couple of other oft-quoted myths are that wild-water swimming is dangerous because of the cold, and that wild water contains the fatal Weil's disease.
 
Peter Cornall of RoSPA says " even in the hottest weather, water in this country remains extremely cold." This is, as you might expect, nonsense. Some does - Scottish lochs can be enormously deep and remain chilly all year round. Much other water heats up very nicely, thank you. The website shows a graph for one lake that regularly reaches 25C in the summer, and in July 2005 Ullswater reached 27C in the top 2 feet - warmer than most swimming pools.
 
Weil's disease is the most serious form of leptospiral bacterial infection caught mainly when open wounds come into contact with animal urine, including that of dogs and cattle - this can be in water or damp soil. The number of these infections each year is tiny, averaging about 4 or 5 each quarter, and there's no big rise in the summer so this is not a swimming issue. It's thought that the majority of cases are farm-workers. In the three years up to 2001 there was only one death from Weil's disease in England and Wales.
 
Makes you think, doesn't it? If they can tell such enormous porkies about this one little specialised activity, swimming in lakes and rivers, just imagine the torrents of falsehood about more mainstream things like driving, boating, playing sports and so on. If only there were more websites like this one.
 
Or perhaps there are, but we don't know about them? If you find any, don't forget to let us know. We think it's always very important to know why we're so bloody grumpy.
 

 

 

 
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