After the fire – how open water swimming venue Divers Cove recovered from an arson attack

Divers Cove, in Godstone, Surrey, is a 7.3 acre lake that was originally excavated as a sand quarry. It is now used for swimming and other water sports. In October 2018, thieves entered the site, cut holes in the roofs of the metal cabins to gain entry, and then set the middle cabin alight. The fire spread and destroyed the café, changing rooms and all of venue’s equipment including boats, kayaks, outboards and wetsuits. Despite this, the site has re-opened for the 2019 season. We spoke to owner, Tom Baker, about how they did it.

What have you done over the winter to get ready for re-opening this spring?

We have spent the whole winter completely renovating the site. We have had to buy new cabins and completely renovate them to be used as changing rooms and cafe, we have done everything ourselves or with the help of our members, from installing a water supply for the toilets to welding doors. We are extremely grateful to our members for helping with work parties and providing funds to complete the work.

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What was the response from the swimming and local community to the fire?

The response from the local community and our members was amazing, we had hundreds of messages of support and nearly £8,000 donated via our gofundme page.

What other work have you got planned for the site?

We still have jobs to complete on site. We will finish painting and cladding the outside of the cabins, build benched seating around our new and improved beach area and we hope to make further upgrades to the site next winter too!

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Are you planning a full season of events this year and, if so, what does it entail?

Yes! We are back up and running as usual this season and hope to offer our members swim events on site, night swims and possibly a small Triathalon utilising the whole site. We have just built our own bespoke RFID wrist band system that our members can use to check in and out, pay for swims/products and monitor swim times. We are also offering a wetsuit test and buy service where swimmers can choose a desired model and test it in the water before purchasing at discounted prices. We are also hoping to increase the duration of our swim sessions to accommodate more swimmers subject to local council approval.

Have the police had any success in identifying the arsonists?

The police have not identified the arsonists/thieves but they do have suspicions of who it could be and are still looking to identify the perpetrators.

Swimming times at Divers Cove are:

Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday evenings from 6:00pm – 8:00pm (May – September)

Saturday & Sunday from 9:00am – 11:00am

Find out more

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I created Outdoor Swimmer in 2011 (initially as H2Open Magazine) as an outlet for my passion for swimming outdoors. I've been a swimmer and outdoor swimmer for as long as I remember. Swimming has made a huge difference to my life and I want to share its joys and benefits with as many people as possible. I am also the author of Swim Wild & Free: A Practical Guide to Swimming Outdoors 365 a Year and I provide one-to-one support to swimmers through Swim Mentoring.