North Yorkshire warns of water dangers as sunny weather draws visitors

Published 29th May 2020

As the warm sunny weather continues, North Yorkshire’s first responder agencies are urging members of the public to keep safe when spending time at rivers, reservoirs and coastal waters.


Taking a dip might be tempting but waters can be full of hidden dangers and beaches on North Yorkshire’s coastline, like the rest of the UK, currently have no lifeguards.


Richard Flinton, chair of the North Yorkshire Local Resilience Forum, which brings together all first responder agencies delivering public services in the county, including emergency services, councils and health, said there were growing concerns for people’s safety as the good weather continues. 


He said that although most people had behaved responsibly during the last Bank Holiday and avoided busy areas to take their leisure and exercise, large groups had gathered at places like the Threshfield Quarry lagoon near Skipton in the Yorkshire Dales and Richmondshire Falls on the River Swale to swim and drink.

“Open water may look tempting to cool off in warmer weather but can be full of hidden dangers including submerged items and vegetation that you can get caught up in. It’s also likely to be much colder that you expect. Even strong swimmers can be affected by cold water shock” Mr Flinton stated.  

“If people are spending time near water they should ensure they are familiar with local safety information and children are fully supervised at all times. If they are planning a visit to the coast they need to read safety signs, they should not be tempted to take inflatables into the sea and watch out for rip currents.”

Last weekend two people drowned in separate incidents in Cornish waters and there are particular concerns for visitors to North Yorkshire’s coast during the coming sunny weather without lifeguards present.

Whilst RNLI lifeboat crews and HM Coastguard are still on call ready to respond to emergencies, the message is clear; the public needs to be on the alert to dangers, taking responsibility for themselves and their loved ones and remembering that, in an emergency they should call 999 and ask for the Coastguard.


Gareth Morrison, RNLI Head of Water Safety, said: ‘If the charity’s lifeguards were present on the beaches today, they would be preventing many incidents before they even occurred by directing people to safe swimming areas, highlighting dangers such as rip currents and advising people not to use inflatables. These preventive measures are not currently in place meaning people could find themselves in danger if they are not reading the signs and following the relevant safety advice.”

People can also quickly get into trouble in reservoirs and Yorkshire Water has issued a stark warning to those who might be tempted by swimming in its reservoirs during the hot weather.

Reservoirs have temperatures as low as 12ºC, which is colder than rivers in summer time and they are much deeper with depths of depths of up to 50m. Although they have less currents than rivers, there are underwater currents generated by pipework, which is a more invisible danger.

Yorkshire Water Regional Water Production Manager, Darren Lynch, said: “Most people think reservoirs are safe places to swim, but they pose a huge risk which could lead to loss of life. They are often colder than rivers and this can result in cold water shock that can lead to hyperventilation, increased blood pressure, breathing difficulties and heart attacks plus water temperatures remain just as cold in summer as in winter.

“We have 115 scenic and beautiful reservoirs that we want walkers, cyclists, runners, picnic-goers and others to enjoy this summer. We just don’t want anyone to swim in them and to obey our warning signs.

North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue has also issued guidance around water safety. This includes advice:

  • If you are going for a walk or run near to water stick to proper pathways and stay clear of the water’s edge. . In 2018 263 people accidentally drowned, around 50% of these people were taking part in everyday activities near water such as walking, running and cycling.
  • If you do fall into the water, remember ‘Float to Live’ try to float on your back. You can find out more about this here
  • Never enter the water to try and help a person or animal – always call 999 and ask for the fire service inland or the coastguard at the coast. Use water rescue equipment if it is available.

Richard Flinton added: “Most people coming out into our countryside and coastal areas are behaving responsibly and respectfully and enjoying walks, cycle rides and runs while observing social distancing.  We would not want to discourage this. But we do want people to stay safe and so we urge them to stay alert around water and look out for their friends and family. 

North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue video about river safety:

Yorkshire Water video about the dangers of reservoirs: