Coronavirus: Bathing season resumes after pandemic delay

Pembrokeshire coast Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Water quality testing has been conducted at sites around Wales, including at beaches in Pembrokeshire

Fancy a dip in one of Wales' many bathing water spots? Well now you can after the bathing season finally started after a delay because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) confirmed that swimmers are now welcome in 105 designated bathing spots.

Essential testing of the water quality has been under way for the last two weeks.

Usually the bathing season starts in May but was paused due to the pandemic.

Mark Squire, sustainable water manager at NRW, said: "The bathing water season helps us keep coastal waters as clean as we can, safeguarding the benefits that they bring to the people, the economy and the amazing marine life in Wales.

"It's so important that our tests are done safely and accurately, which is why we, and the Welsh Government took the decision to delay the season following the unprecedented effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Now that lockdown restrictions are easing, we can get to work on testing Wales' designated waters and continue our evidence-based approach to protecting our marine environments."

Image copyright Geograph / Gareth James
Image caption Designated bathing spots in Wales are mostly in coastal waters

In Wales, there are 43 Blue Flags beaches, 19 Green Coast Awards and 83 Seaside Awards, with 100% of bathing waters meeting the minimum standards.

In 2019, 83% of bathing spots also met the toughest "excellent" standard.

The designated bathing spots in Wales, most of which are coastal waters, all possess different qualities that make them unique.

Image caption Alistair Bell seeks out the coldest water he can for his morning swims

This has made Wales a hotspot for cold water swimmers from beyond Wales to visit.

With the water unchlorinated, and of course unheated, many people use them as a form of therapy for the mind and body.

Considering people have been unable to visit these spots because of the coronavirus pandemic, what effect might this have on people who depend on it as a form of enrichment or as a sport?

Alistair Bell, from Carmarthen, takes part in the extreme sport of ice swimming and has competed in British Ice Swimming Championships and the World Championships in Russia.

He said before covid he would swim usually nine times a week in both the swimming pool and in rivers and the sea.

"I also would take ice baths at home and train in a frozen warehouse freezer," he said.

"Since lockdown I have been continuing to ice bathe at home and instead do a lot of exercises that are meant to help swimming."

Even though he has been keeping his training up and trying all he can to stay fit he says he is itching to get back into the water.

"Nothing feels as intensely as cold water swimming does," he added.

"I love it as it's a mindful sport that makes you focus on that one moment and because I get a lot of endorphins that last for hours afterwards."

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