Revellers warned not to swim in River Lea

Environmental campaigners are warning people not to swim in the River Lea this summer due to risks to their health and wildlife.

Save Lea Marshes has warned that recent news coverage of people enjoying themselves in the river has “painted a misleading portrait” of it “as a beach for partygoers”.

They said that “large numbers” have flocked to the Waterworks Meadow in Lee Valley Park this month and that signs have now gone up asking people not to swim.

The signs, put up by the Lea Valley Regional Park Authority (LVRPA), warn crowds may disturb kingfishers and other birds and could lead them to abandon their nests.

Caroline Day from Save Lea Marshes said: “It is important that enjoyment of the marshes should not come at the expense of wildlife or your health.

“We ask anyone who loves this area not to use barbecues, play amplified music or light fires here.

“Anyone who is a fan of open water swimming, please choose safe options such as the West Reservoir and support the East London Waterworks Park campaign for a rewilded swimming area on the former Thames Depot site.”

The campaign to turn a “fenced-in concrete depot” near the River Lea into a safe place for wild swimming has raised almost £30,000 in donations.

Campaigners also fear people swimming in the river are being exposed to large amounts of plastic and waste pollution.

Raw sewage was discharged into the River Lea from a Thames Water overflow pipe for more than 1,000 hours in 2019.

An LVRPA spokesperson said: “We would like to stress that swimming is not allowed in the river, not only for safety reasons but also to protect nesting birds and other wildlife in the area.”


Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter