keep it safe
The following is a short guide to swimming at Clevedon, based on KNOWLEDGE & PRACTISES of local swimmers.
DO NOT rely on it, do your own research, and decide whether or not to swim based on YOUR abilities and prevailing conditions.
Ideally, join local swimmers and seek their advice or book a session with a local open water coach.
Below assumes you are a competent sea swimmer and provides the barest knowledge about where/when/conditions.
Clevedon’s most popular swimming spot is the beach beside the pier:
- Dogs are not permitted here at any time. There are other dog friendly beaches locally where swimming is also possible with care; some have submerged rocks and challenging tidal flow.
- Novice swimmers – the safest area to swim is no further out than a line between the end of the rocks beneath the pier and the slipway, see diagram. Intermediate swimmers – the orange area is popular with many regular sea swimmers, it should be noted that the tidal flow gets stronger as the water gets deeper.
- Outside these two areas is only recommended for confident sea swimmers who understand the local conditions and their own abilities to cope on any given day.
- The diagram shows the easiest place to get in. Looking out to sea, there is a slight gully to the right of some submerged rocks where less obstacles make for an easier entry and exit.
- The slipway can be used for entry and exit as long as sailing boats are not in the water. Beware of holes in the concrete. Not advisable in rough conditions; breaking waves can knock you off your feet.
If you are NOT an experienced sea swimmer or don’t know the area then the following provides further local knowledge.
- The incoming tide flows up the estuary, the outgoing flows down parallel to the shore, so being swept out to sea is unlikely. There are no rip tides in Clevedon.
- The currents are stronger further out meaning the closer you get to the shore, the easier it is to get back to your intended exit.
- If you are caught in a tide that’s faster than you can swim, aim to swim diagonally against it towards the shore.
- Friction will usually slow the water speed where it runs beside the rocky edge whereas rocky outcrops may increase the water speed. If you find yourself being swept towards Ladye Bay, swim into shore and work your way back against the current. Beware of submerged rocks which you can spot by the way the water breaks round them.
- If it starts to feel too much, DON’T PANIC!
- Slow down, reduce exertion, let your heart rate slow and breathing settle. Feel the waves, adjust your rhythm and look for safety.
- If you need to rest, remember the RNLI advice FLOAT TO SURVIVE: float on your back, arms and legs extended in a star. If your legs sink, push your arms down behind you in the water and gently move them back and forth
Swim preparation tips to mitigate against a small incident escalating to an emergency call out.
- Check the weather, tides and conditions, and be realistic about your ability to cope.
- Conditions may look benign from the shore, but one-foot waves will be above your head when swimming.
- If in doubt, stay out! Don’t put yourself or others at risk.
- Events such as the Clevedon Aquathlon, or club sessions from Clevedon Sailing Club (Friday evenings in the summer), can mean part or all of the lake is unavailable for public use.
- Drain downs are usually planned for the winter months when there are less visitors and bigger spring tides for refill. Draining is done in order to carry out essential maintenance such as mud removal, handrail repairs, seaweed clearing, penstock (drain hole) checking, and general debris clearing.
Swimming with a disability
A couple of swimmers have kindly provided the following views about Clevedon marine lake.
I can’t recommend Clevedon Lake for all disabilities as I’m willing to take some risks. I would say Clevedon Lake is perhaps for people with mild disability because it can be slippery and takes some effort to get in and out. For greater disability, more accessible and safer places to swim are Portishead lido and Vobster Quay
- Don’t go alone, take a buddy in case you slip or get cramp and can’t get out alone.
- Always take a mobile phone so it’s easy to call someone.
- Take a hat and sun cream down if it’s hot as you don’t want to get too hot or burnt in the water.
- Take a buoyancy aid to help you stay afloat and reduce fatiguing. I always take my swimming noodle.
- If you can’t swim, never go where you cannot stand up or where there are tides.
This section provides an introduction to the sea, the tides, what causes them and how air pressure and wind affects sea conditions.
- Tides generally rise and fall twice a day around the British coast (an exception is the Solent and Poole harbour which have double high waters due to tides going round the Isle. Weymouth Bay has double low waters due to the tide going round Portland Bill).
- TIDE TABLES show when the tide is at its highest, called HIGH WATER (HW) and lowest, called LOW WATER (LW).
- The height is mainly affected by the gravitational pull of the moon, causing the seas to bulge outward towards it. A bulge is also caused on the opposite side of the earth due to centrifugal force from its spin. The combined gravitational and centrifugal forces create an ellipse.
- As the moon moves round the earth, the bulge moves with it and we experience the two bulges as rising and falling tides twice a day.
- This is sometimes referred to as a SEMIDIURNAL tidal cycle.
- LOWER tides occur with good weather because the HIGH air pressure system squashes the sea down.
- HIGHER tides occur with bad weather because the low air pressure system allows the sea to rise.
- The above won’t be apparent in the sea, however the tide line will sit further up or lower down the beach at HW.
- In the lake, tides over 12.6m will go over the wall and flood the promenade. If we consider a day when the tidal height is predicted to be only 12.5m: on a normal day (1013mb) the tide would not overtop, but if the air pressure dropped to 960mb, allowing the tide to rise a further half-metre, the resultant 13m would easily overtop the lake wall and flood the walkway.
Below shows the recent storms on 13th March 2021. It shows the very rough and choppy conditions we experience but not the big waves on more exposed coasts. The video also demonstrate “clapotis”, where an incoming waves bounces back from a surface to hit an incoming tide and create a bigger wave as a result. (credit: Sophia Wollschlager)