River Medway Top View
The River Medway is known for attracting locals and tourists looking for a swim during the scorching weather. Clem Rutter

With a sweltering bank holiday weekend fast approaching, thousands of people (including myself) will undoubtedly be making plans to flock towards their nearest seaside town or local river for ice cream and a cooling swim to soak up some sunshine.

There are countless rivers, reservoirs, lakes and seafronts to choose from in the United Kingdom, and one of many includes the beautiful River Medway which stretches for 70 miles across south-east England and eventually empties into the Thames Estuary in Sheerness. Unsurprisingly, the river is a popular recreational site for water sports, river cruises, sightseeing and, of course, swimming during the seldom hot weather.

Likely due to the popularity surrounding this attraction, the River Medway, in particular, has been cited by the Environmental Agency in a recent safety warning that reminds people to avoid any unnecessary risks whilst swimming in the water and to keep a watchful eye on friends and family.

The warning includes safety notices and reminders to stay observant of sites such as waterways, which may be especially hazardous around the structures of bridges, the locks, flood channels and dangerous flows of water that routinely follow heavy rainfall. Other incidents that can temporarily distract bathers involve strong currents and unexpectedly cold water, which can cause shock.

Jason Adams, a senior waterways officer for the Environmental Agency, comments: "The bank holiday is looking to be the first really hot weekend of the year, though the waters in the Medway are still bitterly cold. We've had a chilly, wet spring and just last weekend, the water temperature was only 14 degrees centigrade. Sudden exposure to this can easily cause cold water shock which can immobilise or even kill."

The senior waterways officer further added: "The summer is always a busy time on our rivers, and we expect the Medway to be a focal point for a lot of people's leisure time, though we want people to not just enjoy it, but to remember some basic safety points as well."

Adams continues: "We often see youngsters jumping off bridges into the Medway, with Teston Bridge Country Park, Maidstone and Anchor Sluice and Hampstead Lock being particular hotspots, though there can be hidden dangers in the water that could cause them to get into difficulties."

"We are urging parents to supervise their children closely in and around water and make sure they do not go into the water alone. Come and enjoy the river and all that is going on around it, but please remember to bring your common sense with you as well," Adam states.

As part of their warnings, the Environmental Agency have also firmly reminded locals of the key safety points in the prevention of drowning:

  • If you get into trouble in the water, Float to Live.
  • Lean back and use your arms and legs to help you float, then get control of your breathing before calling for help or swimming to safety.
  • If you see someone else in trouble in the water, call 999 or 112. If you are at the coast, ask for the coastguard. If you are inland, ask for the fire service.

Another major safety tip that is heavily encouraged by the Environmental Agency is not to jump or dive into the water due to varying depths and the dangers of unseen hazards. They also strongly recommend the avoidance of weirs, locks, pipes and sluices, as these can all be linked to strong currents.

Drowning can happen very quickly, even in shallow waters, and the most crucial opponent in safety measures is taking all of the necessary precautions to avoid putting yourself or others in danger.