Cambridge waterway named as new designated wild swimming spot

Sheep's Green has been officially named as a designated swimming spot
Sheep's Green has been officially named as a designated swimming spot -Credit:Anne Miller

A section of the River Cam in Cambridge is amongst several locations to be officially recognised as bathing sites in England. The Government made the announcement just in time for the warmer season.

The Environment Agency is set to begin monitoring water quality at 27 newly proposed bathing sites, including the River Cam at Sheep's Green, following a consultation earlier this year.

This will increase the total number of designated spots for the 2024 bathing season, which spans from May 15 to September 30, 451 across England. The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) has also disclosed plans to hold a consultation later in the year on potential reforms to the regulations governing bathing waters in England.

Read more: Popular Cambridgeshire National Trust site launching special boat tours

These reforms aim to enhance water quality at bathing sites, improve monitoring processes, and offer greater flexibility regarding the dates of the bathing season. Additionally, Defra intends to gather opinions on broadening the definition of "bathers" to include other water users such as rowers, kayakers, and paddle boarders, beyond just swimmers.

According to Defra, last year saw 96 per cent of England's bathing waters achieve the minimum annual standards, with 90 per cent rated as either "good" or "excellent". However, there is mounting public frustration over the condition of England's rivers and coastal waters, which are affected by pollution from sewage discharges and agricultural run-off.

The UK has seen the addition of new bathing waters, including a dozen river sites. These locations are regularly monitored by the Environment Agency to assess pollution levels and devise strategies for improvement in collaboration with local communities, farmers, and water companies.

Speaking at the time of the consultation, Anne Miller, a member of Cam Valley Forum said: "Our surveys showed that hundreds of bathers enjoy swimming in the River Cam on peak days in summer, although, because the water is cold, one only sees a few people in the water at a time. Designation is important because we know that water quality is currently poor, and if Defra approves our application, this will trigger a 'driver' for much needed investment from Anglian Water."

In what was described as the largest ever rollout of new bathing sites, Water Minister Robbie Moore said: "The value our bathing waters bring to local communities is incredibly valuable providing social, physical and positive health and wellbeing benefits to people around the country and I am pleased to have approved a further 27 new bathing water sites for this year. I am fully committed to seeing the quality of our coastal waters, rivers and lakes rise further for the benefit of the environment and everyone who uses them."

Alan Lovell, Chairman of the Environment Agency, added: "Overall bathing water quality has improved massively over the last decade due to targeted and robust regulation from the Environment Agency, and the good work carried out by partners and local groups. We know that improvements can take time and investment from the water industry, farmers and local communities, but where the investment is made, standards can improve."

The newly designated bathing water sites include:

Coastguards Beach in Devon Goring Beach and Worthing Beach House in West Sussex Littlehaven Beach in Tyne and Wear Manningtree Beach in Essex River Avon at Fordingbridge in Hampshire River Cam at Sheep's Green in Cambridge River Dart Estuary at Dittisham Steamer Quay, Stoke Gabriel and Warfleet in Devon River Frome at Farleigh Hungerford and River Tone in French Weir Park in Somerset River Nidd at the Lido Leisure Park in North Yorkshire River Ribble at Edisford Bridge in Lancashire River Severn at Shrewsbury and River Teme at Ludlow in Shropshire River Stour at Sudbury in Suffolk River Wharfe at Wetherby Riverside in West Yorkshire Rottingdean Beach in East Sussex

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