Oxford City Council marks Drowning Prevention Week by reiterating wild swimming warnings

Published: Friday, 23rd June 2017

Oxford City Council is marking Drowning Prevention Week by reiterating its warning about the dangers of swimming in the city’s waterways.

These include strong currents and cold water even when the weather has been very hot. These factors can take even strong swimmers by surprise.                                          

This week is Drowning Prevention Week, a national campaign from the royal Life Saving Society UK that aims to spread water safety advice.

To mark the week, the Oxford Water Safety Group is holding water safety talks and videos in local schools, and distributing its wild water code in school bags.

The code, called Prevent Young Deaths by Respecting Wild Water, was launched last year by the safety group as part of a campaign to reduce the number of drowning fatalities in Oxford.

It features advice about wild swimming, including:

  • River swimming is unlike swimming in leisure pools – learning to wild swim should be a gradual process
  • Find a safe exit before jumping in – river banks can be steep and slippery
  • Don’t jump from Oxford’s bridges – the water beneath can be very shallow
  • Don’t drink before swimming in rivers
  • Don’t enter flood water – flooding can cause unseen hazards, such as subsiding of river banks

The Oxford Water Safety Group is chaired by Oxford City Council and includes Oxfordshire County Council, Thames Valley Police, Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, and the Environment Agency.

Oxford City Council also provides free swimming lessons and sessions for children throughout the year, including:

  • Up to 50 hours of free swimming sessions for children under 17 at the City Council’s leisure facilities
  • One term of free swimming lessons for children aged five to 16 whose parents are eligible for benefits

For more information about the free swimming lesson and sessions, please visit: www.oxford.gov.uk/freeswim.

Drowning is among the leading causes of accidental death in the UK; about 400 people drown every year.

Swimming in Oxford’s waterways can be treacherous because people are unprepared for the strong currents or how cold the water is – even in summer.

One of the major causes of river-related deaths and accidents in Oxford is people jumping from bridges. The river through the city can be as shallow as 1.2 metres (four foot), making this activity incredibly dangerous.

Councillor Linda Smith, Executive Board Member for Leisure, Parks and Sport, said: “However tempting Oxford's rivers may look on a hot summer day, swimming in them is dangerous as even strong swimmers can easily get into trouble. Jumping off the city's bridges is even more hazardous and tragically has proved fatal.

“If you fancy an al-fresco dip this summer cool off at the newly refurbished Hinksey Heated Outdoor Pool where generations of Oxford residents have enjoyed swimming in the sunshine and there are regular sessions where kids swim for free.”