Since the government relaxed some rules and allowed us to exercise more, some lakes are now considering opening to allow for safe swimming. I had mixed feelings about whether or not we should be out there swimming again in open water and wanted to do more research to understand the risks involved.
I was invited to swim at one of the first lakes in the area to reopen I thought it a good opportunity to see for myself how lakes can manage the risks and still allow us to swim freely and safely.
It had been 3 years since my last open water swim and 6 months since my last pool swim so I knew as a swimmer I would have lost most of my fins and gills but it was a good chance to test out our new neoprene booties. With the alarm set for dawn I dusted down my goggles, dug out my thermos flask and tried to get a good sleep.
When the alarm woke me I was in a deep realistic dream of swimming in a lake so it took me some moments to realise I hadn’t yet been swimming! I grabbed my bag and drove the 35 minutes or so to Manvers Waterfront Boat Club, a well established and wonderful lake created in the 1990's as part of the remediation works following the closure of the Wath Main & Manvers Main colliery.
The car park was already open with cars and vans parked well apart. I was immediately greeted by friendly smiles and waves as people chatted across the cars. Some were at the lake for a 7am - 8am swim and others were preparing for the 8am - 9am swim, which meant that there was a fantastic buzz in the air. This is one thing I always love about Manvers, its the people who make the place, everyone is warm and friendly, there are no egos. The lake is run by a group of proud locals who are a credit to the venue.
At 8am around 10 of us gathered by the lake (social distancing rules were observed at all times) and Mark Benton gave us a safety briefing about entering the water safely and how to keep our distance. There were also 2 safety kayaks and we were told if we felt in need of help, we were to hold our hand up and to hold on to the back of the kayak to be towed to the exit. Typical of a Yorkshire welcome, Mark insisted we smiled as we entered the water and smiled as we came out! I was feeling pretty excited.
We entered the water and it was a joy to be back. Beautiful clean, clear water and nothing but the sky above your head. We kept to the shorter 400m loop and for those swimmers who wished to were allowed to swim up and down the lake side so they were never more than a few metres away from safety.
40 minutes later and with my weak arms complaining (nothing a few more regular swims won't fix) I exited and changed in my van before heading home.
So can we swim safely around Covid? My answer is yes.
At no time did I feel that there were too many people and with open spaces around the lakeside, we were all able to social distance at all times. There is no reason to be near anyone and no reason to touch anything. The changing rooms are still closed and you need to book and pay online beforehand.
Manvers Lake is not a public park area and they have not started formal club sessions. They are instead offering just a few sessions per week to club members to use for their own exercise in line with current government rules.
I would still not recommend open water swimming at this stage to those with limited experience or nervous about water. The water is still chilly (12-13 degrees) and all swimmers who attended were regulars and experienced. However I feel that this is a start. I can only praise the members and staff at Manvers for their calm sensible approach and I would certainly feel safer for an hour at this lake. Especially in comparison to trips to the local supermarket or even some runs I have been on in the past weeks where I have had to dive into bushes to try achieve the 2m distance rule! Some people come towards me with little intention of keeping any distance - which can be a bit unsettling at times.
If you would like to speak to me about my experience, just give me a shout. I'm always happy to speak to athletes that rely on this form of exercise to keep going.
Founder of Yonda Sports