Wild Swimming

Open water swimming or ‘wild swimming’ is a popular activity in the North Walsham and Dilham Canal, particularly in the reach above Ebridge Mill lock. Swimming in the canal is a wonderful way to see the canal’s wildlife from water level and is one of the fastest growing outdoor activities in the UK. However, open water swimming is not without its risks, some of which are outlined on this page.

Below you’ll find more information about swimming in the North Walsham and Dilham Canal, including safety advice and information on the hazards involved and your liability. Swimming in the canal is always undertaken at your own risk and includes the risk of drowning and a risk to life.

Access

There are a few different areas along the North Walsham and Dilham Canal where the channel is deep enough and slow-moving enough for experienced swimmers to enjoy a dip. By far and away the most common place to swim, however, is in the reach above Ebridge Mill and in Ebridge Mill Pond.

There is a grassy area beside the lock at Ebridge Mill, suitable for parking (nearest postcode: NR28 9QG). From here, cross the footbridge over the lock onto an apron of grass where there is a bench and a wooden pontoon (ideal for launching kayaks and canoes). The pontoon does not have steps and jumping in is not advised, so swimmers have to lower themselves carefully into the water. Many, instead, choose to walk into the mill pond a few yards to the right of the pontoon, by walking off the edge of the grassy apron/island, which slopes fairly evenly into the canal. It is gravelly under food but there is always a risk of hazards. For those walking into the water, footwear or booties are advised for safety. From here you can swim upstream in the canal for up to one mile.

Swimming Groups

There are several informal swimming groups locally, who meet up to swim in the canal at Ebridge Mill. Found on Facebook, these groups enable swimmers to meet up, swim together with a greater level of safety and exchange advice.

  • The Crazy Ladies has over 500 members: “A year-round informal group of “Crazy Ladies” for outdoor & wild swimming, dipping & plunging in & around Norfolk, UK. Share info on swimming spots, arrange group swims, ask questions & meet new people. We regularly swim at Horstead Mill Pond. Mostly it’s about the cake….!”
  • Norfolk and Norwich Wild Swimmers has almost 1,000 members: “We are a friendly group who swim in the rivers and the sea in the Norwich and Norfolk area (and sometimes Suffolk!). We welcome all abilities.”

These Facebook groups allow for the casual organisation of gatherings amongst friends but they are not official clubs or societies. There is no insurance or payment involved and individuals are responsible for making their own assessment of the risks and taking reasonable actions towards being safe in the water.

Safety

The following safety advice is displayed near the entry point commonly used by swimmers at Ebridge Mill. This advice is not exhaustive and every swimmer should seriously consider all hazards before entering the water. A summary of many of the key hazards can be found on the Norfolk Broads Outdoor Swimming page.

Swimmers are advised to take caution, assess the risks and remember the acronym, S.A.F.E.

Spot the dangers:

  • Find where you will get out before you get in
  • Before jumping in, check it is deep enough and that there are no rocks, branches or other people in the way.
  • Get used to the cold before jumping, get out before you get too cold.
  • If you find yourself amongst weeds, swim slowly out, don’t panic.

Advice:

  • Follow safety advice and read signs. (Further safety resources can be found at the end of this page.)

Friend:

  • Swim with others.
  • Supervise non-swimmers, weak swimmers or young children.

Emergency:

  • If you fall into the water or panic, turn on to your back and float – shout for help if needed.
  • If someone is in trouble, shout for help and call 999 (asking for the Fire and Rescue Service).
  • Throw a rope or safety buoy if available.
  • Assess the risks and only go in to rescue them if you are trained.
Along with personal safety you should also consider your general responsibility around the canal and respect the Outdoor Swimmers Code.

Liability

The North Walsham and Dilham Canal Trust have done their utmost to provide reliable information on this page, however, all swimmers access the canal at their own risk and all entry into or onto the canal waters are undertaken at your own risk. All watersports, including swimming, have inherent risks, including the risk of death or serious injury. We strongly advise all swimmers to read the further information provided below.

Further Information

There is a good deal of safety advice available on the Outdoor Swimming Society website, in particular the resources on the Survive section of the website. Other useful guides include the Outdoor Swimmer website, the safety section on the River and Lake Swimming Association website and the National Water Safety Forum. Of particular note, however, is the Imogen’s River Swims website, put together by Norfolk-based Imogen Radford. Her website is another that includes a detailed safety page, as well as a page dedicated to the Ebridge Mill swimming location, with details of the entry point, parking and maps.

Many thanks to Glenis Dillon (photos) and Imogen Radford for their contributions to this page.