The campaign to maintain public access to Hatchmere Lake, Cheshire. Friends of Hatchmere
For People and Wildlife

In a House of Lords judgement (2003) in the case of Tomlinson v Congleton Borough Council the Law Lords ruled that an accident, such as drowning, in 'ordinary' waters (which do not contain unexpected dangers) arises out of the action taken by the victim not out of the 'state of the premises'. This effectively relieves occupiers of waters of any obligation under the 1957 and 1984 Occupier's Liability acts. The occupier does not even have to put up warning signs. Lord Hoffmann said:

'I think it will be extremely rare for an occupier of land to be under a duty to prevent people from taking risks which are inherent in the activities they freely choose to undertake upon the land. If people want to climb mountains, go hang gliding or swim or dive in ponds or lakes, that is their affair'

The Law Lords made no secret of their view of local authorities who deny the public access to inland waters on grounds of health and safety. Lord Scott of Foscote said:

He (Tomlinson) was simply sporting about in the water with his friends, giving free rein to his exuberance. And why not? And why should the Council be discouraged by the law of tort from providing facilities for young men and young women to enjoy themselves in this way? Of course there is some risk of accidents arising out of the joie de vivre of the young. But that is no reason for imposing a grey and dull safety regime on everyone.

For further details please visit the River and Lake Swimming Association website.

The Public Health Laboratory has released its annual publication STATUTORY NOTIFICATIONS OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES in ENGLAND and WALES - Year 2001 data by Quarter or Region or Age-group. Leptospirosis, often hailed as a major danger to people swimming in rivers and lakes, is a Notifiable Infectious Disease - doctors in England and Wales have a statutory duty to notify a medical officer of the local authority of every case they come across. The published data makes interesting reading.
  • There were no reported cases in the North West of England.
  • Out of a total of 25 reported cases in England and Wales One occurred between March and June, 8 between January and March 11 between September and December. Only 5 (20%) occurred in the summer months (June, July and August). With an incubation period of 4-10 days, Leptospirosis can hardly be classified as a disease associated with bathing in open water.
  • Out of the 25 reported cases there were none in the 1-10 age group, only one in the 10-14 age group, 14 in the 25-44 age group (the most vulnerable), 9 in the 45 to 64 age group and one above 65. Scare mongers often claim that Leptospirosis mainly affects young children.

DROWNING IN LAKES AND RESERVOIRS The latest RoSPA drowning statistics state that in 1999 84 people (15% of the total) drowned in lakes and reservoirs. What they fail to tell us is that out of these only 12 were known to be swimming at the time of drowning. This compares with 24 people who drowned while fishing (in all waters) and 14 who drowned in swimming pools.

WATER TEMPERATURE A myth regarding bathing in open water is that the water is always cold. Water temperature at Hatchmere, measured one metre below the surface varied between 16 and 22C during August 2001, reached 21C in mid-May 2008 and 23C in July. These temperatures are common in lowland lakes in Britain.

Late afternoon at the Lake