In response to our article last week about swimming in the wild, safety experts explain how to take the plunge safely this summer.

ON those rare occasions when the temperature really soars, there’s nothing nicer than a spontaneous swim in the nearest pond or river. It’s cool, refreshing and gives us a rare sense of getting back to nature.

But the sad fact is that drowning is still the third highest cause of accidental death among children in the UK – and most drownings occur in inland waters such as rivers, lakes and ponds – so it’s vital to take recautions.

Every year the Amateur Swimming Association (asa), the national governing body concerned with every element of swimming, works in partnership with the Royal Life Saving Society to deliver important water safety messages to children through its Get Safe 4 Summer Campaign.

“Swimming in open water such as lakes, rivers, canals and the sea is very different from swimming in an indoor swimming pool,” says the asa’s chief executive officer David Sparkes. “The water is colder and can make you tired more quickly.

There could be currents, depth changes can occur without warning, there can be hidden dangers and there are no lifeguards if you do get into trouble.”

For these reason, the asa, the Royal Life Saving Society and extreme sports such as British Sub- Aqua advocate that you should never swim alone.

“The asa wants everyone to be able to enjoy the water but in a safe and sensible way. The ability to recognise dangers and a knowledge of water safety is just as important as being able to swim,” says Mr Sparkes.

“The Wild Swimming article referred to ‘twitchy lifeguards’ making swimming not quite the same as when it is done totally in the wild – but the fact remains the safest place to swim or bathe is a beach or swimming pool protected by qualified lifeguards. There are some open water sites that have lifeguards and there are also properly managed outdoor adventure groups that would equally but more safely deliver these experiences.”

With the right preparation and information, everyone can be safer in the water this summer. Just remember the Water Safety Code and stay S.A.F.E.

SSpot the dangers. Whenever children are near water they should take extra care. They should look to see if the water is affected by currents or tides or if there are rocks, piers, groynes or breakwaters that may effect swimming. Children should also learn to look at what the general conditions are like in and out of the water.

AAdvice. Children should always try to choose a place to swim where there are lifeguards and always take notice of safety information that may include warning or safety signs.

FFriends. If children are going near water they should always go with a friend if they cannot be accompanied an adult. A friend could be able to get help if they get into trouble in the water.

EEmergency. Children should never jump into water to rescue someone. A drowning person may be very strong and pull them under the water as well.

Instead they should ring 999 or 112 and shout for help.

“It is possible to swim safely in an open water environment if you adopt a safety first approach,” says Mr Sparkes. “The asa organises a number of Open Water swimming competitions for our members and the public and we would urge anyone interested in swimming in open water to first work with a specialist club until they gain experience.”