Avoid open water in the heatwave

With UK temperatures set to soar late this week as parts of Yorkshire & North East England reach highs of up to 30C, Canal & River Trust is asking people to stay safe by water, avoid open water swimming in their local canals, rivers and reservoirs and seek alternative ways to cool down.

The initiative is supported by West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (WYFRS).

Britain’s historic canal towpaths saw a massive increase in usage during lockdown as people stayed local and discovered these green/blue linear parks on their doorstep. Post lock-down, for the eight million people living by a canal, this trend has continued with usage up by up to 240%.

The waterway and wellbeing charity that looks after 316 miles of waterways and five reservoirs in Yorkshire & North East England runs regular campaigns to alert people to the dangers of swimming in inland waterways. In South Leeds the Trust manages the River Aire, the Aire & Calder Navigation and the Leeds & Liverpool Canal.

John Gibson, area operations manager for Canal & River Trust explains:

“We’ve seen more people than ever relaxing and reaping the health benefits of spending time by water.  With bright skies and warm sunshine forecast from tomorrow we’re expecting our waterways and reservoirs to be popular.

“We are welcoming people to the waterside but are particularly concerned about people enjoying a post-lockdown drink and then going for a dip, young people and children who could be unaware of the hidden dangers of swimming in our waterways.”

The coronavirus lockdown has impacted the delivery of our ‘Explorers’ water safety summer programme which helps young people in schools learn how to enjoy their local canal or river safely, however we are sharing our message through a targeted online campaign. We have also been working with emergency partners within Wakefield District who are working collectively to keep the community safe and pro-actively finding solutions around water signage and water safety measures in hot spot areas.

The Canal and River Trust has been working closely with West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service and other key stakeholders in Wakefield in response to recent incidents involving open water and local concerns about people jumping off canal bridges and footbridges into local waterways, lagoons and ponds as well as taking part in open water swimming regardless of the dangers presented.

Donna Wagner, Wakefield’s District Prevention Manager at West Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service, said:

“By bringing together key partners such as police, council, youth services as well as Canal & River Trust, we are tackling the dangers of open water swimming with a cohesive strategy for the whole of Wakefield.

“We are committed to protecting the people of West Yorkshire, and are working with other authorities to implement measures now and in the future to continue to keep people safe.”

The Trust is highlighting other ways to cool down that avoid getting in the water:

  • Lounge in the shade of waterside trees rather than getting tangled in waterway reeds.
  • Keep your cool – chill out on the bank and enjoy the peacefulness of being beside water.
  • If you want to jump and dive, wait for your local swimming pool to open, don’t get in locks or canals which can be shallow and have obstructions below the waterline
  • Cool down with an ice-lolly, drink or ice-cream at a waterside café.

The waterway and wellbeing charity Canal & River Trust looks after a total of 2,000 miles of canals and rivers across England and Wales, as well as 72 reservoirs.

To date 125,000 children over the past four years have benefited from the Trust’s water safety Explorers programme, which focuses on children in Key Stage 2 of the National Curriculum.  To help with water safety education at home the Explorers team has compiled a range of free activities, resources and games which can be found at canalrivertrust.org.uk/explorers/learning-from-home/water-safety.

To find out more about staying safe near canals and rivers, go to: canalrivertrust.org.uk/enjoy-the-waterways/safety-on-our-waterways/summer-water-safety


This post is based on a press release issued by the Canal & Rivers Trust