Tuesday, 18 May 2021

Steps into river area for wild swimming

Steps into river area for wild swimming

A DEDICATED wild swimming area on the River Thames in Henley is a step closer to becoming a reality.

The town council has agreed to investigate building steps leading to a shallow section of water off Marsh Meadows, near Marsh Lock, which would be marked off by buoys.

It will seek quotes and take advice on the council’s legal responsibilities if it were to go ahead as well as asking the Environment Agency for permission.

Councillor Kellie Hinton, who came up with the idea, presented a report to a meeting of the council’s recreation and amenities committee, which she chairs.

She said businesses had advised her that the area would need clear signs to alert amateur boaters while the Environment Agency would be most concerned about the conservation impact.

The steps could go in one of two locations a few feet apart near the footbridge by Marsh Lock, neither of which is currently used for moorings. The point furthest from the footbridge was less likely to cause a pedestrian “bottleneck” on the towpath.

The steps would probably run parallel to the bank rather than going into the water and could have a handrail.

There is currently no swimming access off Mill or Marsh Meadows, although a ladder is being installed near the River & Rowing Museum jetty as part of a £300,000 overhaul of the bank.

The new outdoor swimming area would be the town’s first since the closure of Henley Municipal Baths, off Wargrave Road, which were popular for more than a century before they shut in the early Eighties.

A set of stairs at the foot of Mill Lane used to be open to the public but is now blocked by a private mooring.

Mayor-elect Sarah Miller said: “This is a fantastic idea. I’m all for this because river swimming is so popular.”

Councillor Laurence Plant said: “The area near the footbridge is best as it’s very accessible and rarely used by boaters. It’s quite shallow to navigate anyway, so most river traffic heads further into the water. Apart from the odd canoeist or paddleboarder, it’s a brilliant spot for swimming and well away from the super-busy area outside the museum.”

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