A group of outdoor swimmers in Hampshire have fundraised to repair river bank erosion in their loved local spot on the River Itchen. Just up from the Hub at Bishopstoke, the popular spot is enjoyed by a range of river users.
The council built a set of wooden steps for improved access to the water some time ago, but erosion of the banks around the steps has been getting worse. The group aims to reverse the damage to protect the local ecosystem and ensure the spot can continue to be enjoyed by all.
Rachel Whitfield, organiser of the fundraising and part of Hampshire open water swimmers, felt there was a sense of duty among the swimming community to preserve the much-loved area. She commented: “This is a really exciting opportunity to make a real difference to a local environmental issue which is dear to all of us. The Itchen is a unique ecosystem, and we can play our part in helping to preserve it.”
After launching the fundraising page, the target of £500 was met by swimmers overnight, and the restoration is now in the legal stage with help from the Environment Agency. Specialists will then be called in to organise the repair, and volunteers will help with the labour.
It comes at a time of increasing awareness around the importance of the health of our rivers, and highlights the importance of the responsibility we have as swimmers to respect and preserve the local spots we get to enjoy.
Though the damage wasn’t exclusively caused by swimmers, Rachel felt repairing the steps was the right thing to do: “We were teaching new swimmers not to get in from the bank, but the damage has been done in a lot of ways. I know that other things had caused that damage, but some of it was us. So the right thing to do was to fix it.
“A little bit of thought could change the culture of swimming groups so that damaging the bank isn’t acceptable. I don’t think that’s a big ask, if you look at how much people get back from nature and how much we gain from swimming outside. It’s about trying to make those little adjustments so that we can make sure that river bank is still beautiful in 10 years time.”
To stay up to date, visit the Hampshire Open Water Swimmers (HOWS) Facebook page and the fundraising page.
For more information on safe river swimming, see our River Swimming Guide.