In 2020 the Warleigh Weir Project intends to make the River Avon a “Designated Bathing Water”.

To support this please fill in this form every time you visit Warleigh Weir.

What is Designated Bathing Water status?

Designated Bathing Waters are swimming spots that are available for people to swim in and typically include beaches, rivers and lakes.   The UK currently has 644 sites while France has 3351, Germany has 2289 and Italy has 5539 1

In the UK there is currently not a single river which is a designated bathing water, whereas other European countries have hundreds.

Why get “bathing water status”?

Once a swimming spot has designated bathing water status the Environment Agency will conduct regular water safety testing and communicate water safety with site usuers.  More importantly the Environment Agency then becomes compelled to take action against river polluters.

This means that people can make more informed safety decisions on their wild swimming

This also means that river polluters are held to account.

The result is that swimming spots are going to be cleaner and safety.

It also means that all downstream sites are going to be cleaner and safer

All of this results in better waterways, healthier environment, greater biodiversity and a more inclusive waterway for all creatures.

Who does it affect?

Lots stakeholders are affected by a site becoming a “Designated Bathing Water”.  In the case of Warleigh Weir this includes:

  • Swimmers/paddlers/canoeists – they have reliable information about the water quality safety as well as benefit from cleaner water
  • Fisherman – Less pollution means more and larger fish
  • Residents – anyone living or working near the river will benefit from cleaner and safer water
  • Fish – healthier water, less algae, more oxygen and more light (due to likely decrease in nitrates)
  • Otters – more fish, more food
  • Polluters – held to account and made to be more sustainable in their activites

Why does all this matter?

The benefits are likely clear to those who use and benefit from the river.  But the impact goes far beyond just this.   We believe that using our natural environment for recreation can have a much larger impact than just benefitting our pastimes.    When people engage with their environment, they think more about how they live, consume, where their food comes from, how waste is processed and the impact they have on their planet.    Afterall, swimming in water makes one think very carefully about what is in it.

In additional, the mental and physical health benefits from wild bathing and interacting with nature are proving to be immense.   Many people report of profound improvements to their health and well being by engaging in these past times.

The natural environment also creates an amazing sense of human connection and community.  At Warleigh Weir in particular there is an incredible crowd of people from diverse backgrounds who enjoy time together in a context where language, status, background and geography fade – this is so good for all of us.

We also hope that Warleigh Weir becoming a designated bathing water will encourage other land owners to do the same throughout the UK – this will have a massive and profound impact on the ecology of our waterways.

What needs to happen?

We need to get DEFRA (department for environment, food and rural affairs) to give Warleigh Weir Designated Bathing Water Status.   We are already in communication with them and they are kindly advising and assisting with the process.

The information DEFRA considers is:

  • User Surveys to show that there is an “established local usage” – for those of us that know the site, it is an amusing idea that we have to prove this, but it is an important part of the process
  • Facilities at the bathing area
  • Local Consultation

What do we need to do?

This is what really matters!  Action!    The current plan is as follows:

  • Visitors to Warleigh Weir need to build a data set of “established local use”. When you visit the island please email with the following information:  your name, date visited, number of people on the field, number of people in the river and a photo of the river with swimmers attached.  This needs to take place between May 2020 and September 2020
  • Claverton Parish Council (local parish) consultation at the Parish Council Meeting on 11 September to get ideas, input and support
  • Local Stakeholder consultation for wider community and site users – date TBC
  • Meeting with BANES (we are still trying to establish if/who is the relevant person for this) – date TBC
  • Adjust the safety advice relating to Warleigh on the WWP website so as to recognise that people can and do swim on the island – and that it can be done with measured risk.

About Warleigh Weir

Warleigh Weir has been a popular swimming spot for over 100 years.  Located a few miles from Bath and in the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

In 2017 the site developed a major issue around parking, litter and anti-social behaviour.  This triggered local businessperson and activist Johnny Palmer to purchase the river island and adjacent land to promote the sustainable use of the countryside.  He subsequently setup the “Warleigh Weir Project” whose goal is to promote positive use of the site, maintain access and resolve the various issues with the site.

There was initial controversy when Palmer first purchased the site as he threatened to close it to the public if the rubbish issue was not resolved.

The Warleigh Weir Project is made up of a group of “guardians” who are active in site improvements public communication and litter picking.

More info

Warleigh Weir Website                                                 

Designated bathing water info from DEFRA

Photos of Warleigh Weir                                               

Video of corporate sponsorship with Warleigh Weir       

Video showing some tree planting activity on the site

WWP Guardians Facebook Page

Warleigh Weir Ownership:                             Warleigh Island Conservation Project Ltd (06716704)

Example of Ilkley River DBWS

  1. Numbers taken from the European Environment Agency Map on 31 August 2019