This is the cry of the timid bureaucrat who doesn’t want to be sued. So somewhere in some council room a discussion was held about Astbury Mere, a lovely old quarry now full of water and used for canoeing and windsurfing, open to the public and much used and loved.
“Members of the public have been seen swimming and paddling in Astbury Mere.”
“This is a very worrying situation. It would be disastrous for the authority if there were to be a drowning. Imagine the bad publicity.”
“And we would be sued for not having secured the Mere and made it safe.”
“I propose we institute a ban on swimming or paddling and put up signs to that effect. Then we will be seen to have done our duty by the people of Congleton Borough.”
This seems to be the pervasive attitude in Britain. Cover your back. Ban the activity. How depressing! Some years ago I took a school group to Sweden. How refreshing it was to find that small towns actually put up road signs directing you to the swimming spot at the lake. And they put in some piers and diving platforms! I imagine those Swedes want their children to be healthy, fit, and happy. This picture is from a lake somewhere in central Sweden:
Now ask any British adult and they will agree that we want our children to be healthy, fit, and happy. But somehow we haven’t managed to translate that wish into the political reality of local authorities who say We have a lake! Great for free swimming! Come on kids! We’ll build you a diving platform! In Britain, the money for the diving platform has been spent on safety consultants and signs saying No Swimming.
But the British are not always willing to obey stupid signs. So it was with high hopes that I cycled to Astbury on Sunday after hearing from my son that plenty of people were swimming in the mere.
Sure enough, the Mere was ringed by people swimming, paddling, partying and barbecuing. I specially liked the beach where they put the sign:
The only disappointing thing was that 99% of these people had arrived by car, meaning the carpark was a choked-up traffic jam of irritable hot people.
On the way home I spotted this quarry – maybe a lake for the future? – where sand is extracted and sold. A little reminder that all Cheshire used to be under the sea and maybe one day will submerge again.
The last week has been hot and sunny after a miserable cold spring. Perhaps at last we are due a beachy summer?