Over the past year or so, large numbers of people have continued to visit St Aidan's for daily exercise and recreation - walking, birdwatching, or simply enjoying the spectacular views. We're delighted that so many people have been able to enjoy the park throughout the lockdowns, and that it has helped them connect with nature at a difficult time. We have always tried to make St Aidan's accessible, and to ensure that as many people as possible can have safe and enjoyable experiences here.
We have also seen a significant increase in the number of visitors using the recreation area and accessing the water. We recognise and appreciate the benefit of swimming and other water recreation to wellbeing, and are conscious this is something that has been very important to people over the past year. However, there are a number of significant risks to entering the water at St Aidan's Nature Park. As well as hidden hazards and cold water, there are potentially contaminants harmful to humans in the water-for example, blue green algae is often present on site, which is a natural part of standing water ecology. When algae blooms form in hot weather, this can be dangerous to human health. As the area has never been formally designated for safe swimming, there may also be other risks that we may not be aware of. As a result, we have recently put up new signs to more clearly communicate that entry to water at St Aidan's is not allowed.
We want everyone to be able to enjoy St Aidan's safely. As a conservation charity, our expertise is in saving nature. We do not have the resources or expertise to ensure that swimming and other forms of recreation in the water can be undertaken in a safe, responsible and inclusive way; which is why we do not allow access to the water on site. We're asking all our visitors to make the sensible decision to follow site signage, stay out of the water, and stick to the paths.
We appreciate that many experienced swimmers are confident in the water without lifeguards or other safety measures in place, but we are asking for the full support of the community in leading by example. There has been a sharp increase recently in the number of young people accessing the water without guardians present, taking inflatables onto our lakes, and behaving recklessly in and around the water. Seeing others in the water encourages less experienced swimmers to ignore the rules and assume it is safe for all to do so - potentially putting themselves at considerable risk. We will be doing more throughout the summer to educate people about these risks - in partnership with the Police, Fire Service and Council - and the new signs are the first step in this.
We want to keep all our visitors safe, and the best way for us to do that is to ask that everyone follows the same set of clear rules. We may be able to review these rules in the future but, for now, we have to focus on keeping people safe and this is currently the only way we can do so.
We're grateful to all of our visitors for for their support and understanding. We look forward to helping facilitate many more magical nature experiences at St Aidan's throughout this year and beyond.
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