Barcombe Mills, Ouse

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Fantastic 5km stretch of swimming on river Ouse. No current but clean, deep water. Boat hire. Steep banks.

Place Categories: River Swims and Wild Swim.Place Tags: dive, swim and wildswimming.

Sam says:

Karl Parker may indeed have a point. The summer flow of the Ouse at Barcombe Mills is usually over 60% sewage effluent. None of the treatment works employ effluent disinfection, which means that they can (and usually do) contain pathogenic bacteria and viruses. There are also a number of cattle drinks along the river and cow dung is a renowned source of E.coli. Campylobacter is recognised as being a serious problem by South East Water, a company that abstracts water for potable supply at Barcombe Mills and they have installed ultra violet disinfection at there works to overcome the problem.
So, it is not just blue-green algae that swimmers should worry about.

Wildswimmer Pete says:

There’s always one! Why don’t you restrict yourself to chlorine and tiles – you’d probably prefer swimming in others’ bathwater? Oops, given your obsession with disease you’d need to ensure your pool isn’t harbouring Cryptosporidium, a chlorine resistant parasite that survive for seven days in a chlorinated pool. Of course take care you don’t contract Legionnaires Disease lurking in the showers and/or air conditioning.

We have immune systems to resist infection, and Baby Boomers like me grew up playing in the raw sewage otherwise known as Liverpool Bay seawater. We also grew up among serious diseases like tuberculosis, polio, and diphtheria. Our immune systems were well challenged unlike nowadays. Possibly why I’ve been swimming in open water for 40 years without contracting in any disease – and I’ve swum in some seriously manky water.

I do have specialist scientific knowledge regarding water pollution and its risks, I’m also one of RALSA’s researchers.

Do go and get a life.

Libby says:

We had a lovely time there recently but I was approached by an irate member of the Ouse Angling Society who was saying they are going to ban us from coming, that there are perch that will bite your feet off… etc etc. I can only imagine he’s not got as much power as he wishes and had to take it out on me!

Can anyone tell me what our rights are for future encounters?

Can I put a canoe in anywhere for example?

Can I drive up to the top section, walk along the walls?

Many thanks


doug says:

hi libby obviously caught him on a bad day, im pretty sure they have no way of imposing bans on swimmers. I take a sup board from barcombe mills up past the anchor inn for about 2 miles. boating is fine however beware that the landlord of the anchor has access rights so by law he can stop you using the river from the anchor pub. he does enforce this, however he is a really nice guy and as long as you use his pub he’s okay. on a different note jumping off the disused railway bridge is a must!

Anonymous says:

We have been a couple of times now ….and my kids are desperate to find the railway bridge to jump off.
Is it near the pub?

We have tended to swim further down the river.

Peter says:

The water quality of any river or stream should taken in to consideration when so called wild swimming ,if it was poured in to glass and you were asked to drink it you would decline , would you eat wild water cress !!.
But the water is probably cleaner and safer to swim in than in the sea off of many of our South Coast resorts ,, where you dont swim but go through the motions!!!

Mike says:

I agree with JD, this is fantastic spot for a river swim, and for those that like to get the adrenaline pumping a bit more, there is an old 10-12ft railway bridge that is jumpable, along with some rope swings and overhanging trees. Great fun. I went this weekend, and got in with the pup. I have swum and jumped this river for at least the last four years and never had any problems – the water is extracted for drinking after-all! I would of course avoid after heavy rain as with anywhere else due to run off and the fact that its a lot colder than normal!

Becca says:

Beautiful swimming and boats to hire but wouldn’t recommend after heavy rain as the wash from the fields definitely effects water quality, lovely though.

We had a fabulous day there and all swam alot, but my 5 year old daughter threw up all night the next night, and I’m pretty sure it’s because she drank quite alot of the river water…so be cautious! It is beautiful though, and all the other swimmers were fine, probably because we didn’t drink it….

Karl Parker says:

There are a total of 27 water treatment plants along the Ouse all discharging thier nutrient rich waste into it. This may or may not be cause for concern, depending on your views, but in recent years we have noticed a marked increase in blue green algae particarly in the summer months under high temperature and very low flow conditions. This could well account for your daughters sickness,

Blue-green algae are naturally present in the majority of fresh water bodies throughout Uk for most of the year and have the potential to form blooms. With the exceptionally good weather favourable water temperatures and the nutrients present in the water, the natural growth of blue-green algae can take place, forming algal blooms.

You have been warned!

Les says:

Clean water? You have to be kidding.

I know 4 people who have swum here is the last few weeks and all got nasty stomach upsets.

Not surprising really given the surroundings and the amount of sewage in this river.

JD says:

Les either has no idea what he’s taking about, or is clearly an Angler, they get pretty irate on this piece of water. If the conditions were so bad the fish wouldn’t be there so don’t believe their rubbish. This river is even one of the best in southern England for Sea Trout!

Have a look at the monthly water quality report here if you don’t believe me

Anyway it’s a great area to swim, although the banks are very steep! Please be respectful of the farmers and other river users (even if they don’t show you the same courtesy!).

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