As Oxfordshire's heatwave is set to continue for the rest of the week, people are looking for ways to cool down, with many turning to rivers, lakes and ponds.

Wild, or outdoor swimming, has increased in popularity in recent years and, with the high temperatures, people are taking to open water.

However, swimming in open water is not without its dangers and yesterday a teenage girl died after being rescued from a lake in Witney.

We asked lifeguard and swimming teacher Wendy Foster for some advice on how to keep safe when going for a swim. 

The teacher from Bicester said: “With the heat, everybody is thinking they should cool off. There are still restrictions within indoor swimming pools and so people are naturally thinking they will go elsewhere – where there are no covid restrictions.

“Sometimes people think they are good swimmers, and they will be alright, but they are not.

“Something might look inviting, lovely, not deep and it might look like there is no danger but you just do not know.

“You do not know what is at the bottom or what you are going to get caught in.”


Wendy’s top 5 tips for staying safe:



Be aware of signs, such as ‘do not swim’ and ‘do not trespass’

If you are swimming outside you should ask yourself, should I be here? Look for guidance or signs which indicate when and where you should enter the water. if there are no such signs, find somewhere else to swim. 


Do not swim on your own, even if you are a good swimmer


Even the strongest swimmers can get into trouble in the water so it is always best to take friends with you, that way they can raise the alarm if something happens. 


Look for the areas manned by proper lifeguards


In the UK you are not allowed to swim in a pool without supervision so you should expect the same when swimming outside. Look for beaches and outdoor areas which are manned by trained lifeguards who know what to do in an emergency. 


Only used swimming areas designated by Oxfordshire County Council


Responsibly managed swimming areas will be far safer than random rivers and lakes, with specialist equipment and trainned staff available to help you if you need it. 


Get yourself onto a ‘learn to swim’ or ‘lifesavers’ course


These essential life skill courses will help to improve your own water awareness and thus protect yourself and others. 

Ms Foster emphasised learning to swim at a young age is very important but even if you are older it is not too late, and 'anybody can learn to swim'.

As well as learning to swim, she stressed the importance of understanding the different flags at beaches.

The most commonly used flags on UK beaches are: 

Red and yellow flag - you should only swim between these two flags 

Black and white chequered​ flag - this area is designated for surfing craft only

Red flag - serious hazard and you should NOT enter the water 

Orange windsock - indicates strong winds and you should not use an inflatable in the water

Ms Foster also added that although she is a lifeguard herself she is 'very careful' where she chooses to swim.

The Royal Life Saving Society UK runs a water safety award which sets out a national standard for water safety.

It is an essential skill-based programme to ensure safety and competence around water which enables people to have fun and enjoy the water whilst learning skills to help keep themselves and others keep safe.

Ms Foster encourages everyone to undertake these courses and urges those working with young people this summer to 'hone in on safety' in these outdoor areas.