St Aidan's nature reserve near Castleford introduces wild swimming ban amid safety concerns

A nature reserve near Castleford has banned open water swimmers from its lake, citing safety concerns.

St Aidan’s, owned and run by the RSPB, is a popular wild swimming spot although there are no lifeguards manning the area. Photo: SWNS/Ross Parry

St Aidan’s, owned and run by the RSPB is a popular wild swimming spot although there are no lifeguards manning the area.

While swimming has never been encouraged at the lake by the RSPB, the charity has now taken the step of explicitly banning the activity after fears that weak swimmers are at risk of an accident, potentially from underwater hazards.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The lake is built over a former open cast quarry, and a spokesperson for the RSPB said they did not know whether former machinery could still be under the water.

Richard Barnard, RSPB Area Manager for Yorkshire and Humber, said: “For health and safety reasons, swimming should only take place at visitor attractions where detailed assessments of the risks have been undertaken and managed, which is why we do not allow access to the water at RSPB St Aidan’s Nature Park.

“With the school holidays coming up, we had to take quick, proactive action that applied to all visitors, to reduce the risk of an accident occurring.”

The charity has said it does not have the resources to provide a lifeguard for the area, which is owned by Leeds City Council.

A spokesperson for the council said they had no input in how the lake was managed.

But residents have reacted with anger on social media to the ban, expressing concerns that it may encourage inexperienced swimmers to try other, less safe spots.

Pauline Alderdice wrote: “Surely to have wild swimming in this popular safe space is far better than having our young people endangering their lives elsewhere that is not tried and trusted.”

Katia Oku wrote: “This is such a shame. This was the only place that I could go swimming in the area. As an adult I should have right to decide for myself if it is safe for me to swim there or not.”