The ACA Forum

Conserving the Devonshire Avon from source to sea


There are many risks as well as many benefits from outdoor swimming.   Whilst an exhilarating and beautiful environment, tidal waters can be very dangerous for a number of reasons.    Anybody planning to swim in the estuary should respect other estuary users and riparian landowners’ property by following  the Outdoor Swimming Society’s comprehensive Code of Conduct, as follows:-

Consideration for others

  • Be considerate of your effect on other water users such as fishermen/women, boaters, nesting birds. Be courteous to them and be courteous of their rights.
  • Be considerate to landowners and properties that neighbour popular swim spots.   Most of the estuary runs through PRIVATE land; you could be trespassing.
  • Park sensitively wherever you go: do not block roads, do not block gates to fields or access to houses.   Remember, large emergency vehicles may need access.
  • Properties that neighbour very popular summer swim spots are likely to suffer aggravation. Remain sympathetic and courteous if met with hostility.  If there is a way to show thanks or lessen the burden on them, please take it.
  • Take away others rubbish as well as your own and recycle it. At very popular swim spots farmers, landowners and volunteers have to do daily clearance of other people’s rubbish: this is not anybody’s job, and more hands help.
  • Be as quiet as possible so as not to spoil the enjoyment of others.
  • Keep a good distance from anglers and avoid their lines. Leave them ample room to cast. Pass by quickly and quietly, creating as little disturbance as possible and do not loiter in fishing pools.
  • You may want to encourage others to participate in swimming. Do not force them.
  • Be considerate about skinny-dipping.


Because swimmers’ wet suits may have been used on other waterways, it is vital before they are put into the waters of the Avon, that wet suits  are checked for contaminants, cleaned and dried  – ‘CHECK – CLEAN – DRY’! Non-native species cannot survive long term desiccation.


Of particular concern in our estuary is the danger posed to swimmers by recreational boat users.

Swimmers should make themselves highly visible and avoid swimming in the zone demarcated for use by waterskiers.   Your head will be barely visible low down in the water from a fast moving boat and it goes without saying that a collision might result in terrible injury or death!   Wear a brightly coloured hat and tow a bright float.

Keep clear of the water ski zone which is marked by buoys.    BEWARE!  Water skiers may operate 1.5 hours either side of high water.  Swimmers should stick to the sides of the channel at all times to stay safe.

It is well worth pointing out that, by convention, boats have a right of way in preference to swimmers in areas where manoeuverability is restricted by depth or width of the estuary,  by tidal and weather conditions or by other vessels.

Enjoy your swim!

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