‘Really competitive’ - council defend £7 charge to swim in Bristol harbour as couple test the water

The money will pay for lifeguards, safety boats and access ramps

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A council chief has described the £7 charge to swim in Bristol’s harbour as ‘really competitive’ - as a couple became the first ever people to take a legal swim in the harbour.

Husband and wife David, 59, and Karen Quartermain, 48, took a dip shortly before 2pm today (March 28) ahead of the council’s wild swimming scheme in the harbour. Swimming in the water had previously been prohibited, but now a five-week scheme will begin on April 28 allowing people to do so if they please - but at a cost.

Swimming in the floating harbour will set you back £7 per hour once the scheme has begun with up to 80 people prohibited at a time. Bristol City Council’s cabinet member for public health and communities believes this to be a ‘competitive price’.

Councillor Ellie King told BristolWorld: “So, £7 is really competitive for what it is. [The charge] is paying for our lifeguards, our safety boats and access ramps so we can ensure people are getting in and out of the water in a safe way.

“Similar schemes in Chesire and Salford cost £10 - we’ve done everything we can to keep it as low as possible while also being viable. We’re hoping [if the trial is successful] to roll it out over the summer months when it’s warmer and bring a new audience to the harbourside.”

Public reaction to the pilot scheme was mixed once announced, with many questioning how clean the water was and whether this raised any safety concerns. The River Trust has previously disclosed that overspills of raw sewage had been pumped into the waterway for hundreds of hours.

Cllr King said that those taking a dip would only be allowed to swim in a 200-metre area designated the cleanest part of the harbour.

She added: “The water at this part of the harbour regularly tests as either ‘Good’ or ‘Excellent’ and we’re going to be having weekly tests here throughout the pilot. We’re also working with Wessex Water to increase testing of the water to perhaps one day have a permanent test with live updates - that’s our ambition for the future.”

David and Karen Quartermain enjoyed their 10-minute swim at Baltic Wharf, calling the experience ‘exhilarating’ once they pulled themselves to shore.

“It’s amazing to be in the water with this backdrop [Clifton] here, it feels as if you’re in Copenhagen - it’s beautiful,” Karen claimed as she dried herself on the harbourside.

David and Karen Quartermain in the waterDavid and Karen Quartermain in the water
David and Karen Quartermain in the water

“It is stunning and a great privilege to be able to trial the water ahead of the pilot. And the water tastes surprisingly lovely.” David began.

“I’m acclimatised to cold water so I wouldn’t recommend [swimming in cold conditions] to someone who isn’t experienced. The visibility is surprising, when you’re underwater you can still see your hand - visibility is great. I’m sure it will be a big success when it starts.”

The pilot will run on Saturdays and Sundays from 8am to 10am from April 29 until May 28.

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