Woman inspired to teach Swim Safe in Barry by near drowning of grandmother

Lifeboats News Release

Hundreds of children are swapping the swimming pool for the sea and making a splash as part of an open water safe swimming scheme new to south Wales.

More than 300 children are flocking to Barry Island for Swim Safe, a free programme of outdoor swimming and water safety sessions for children aged between seven and 14.

Brand new to Barry this year, the initiative saw more than 100 children don wetsuits and swimming hats and get into the sea to learn vital sea safety techniques for two days in July.

And this week more than 200 more will take part on Whitmore Bay between Friday (12 August) and Sunday (14 August)

The sessions, delivered in partnership between Swim Wales, the ASA (Amateur Swimming Association) and the RNLI charity (Royal National Lifeboat Institution), include a land-based safety lesson with RNLI lifeguards and in-water tuition with ASA qualified swimming teachers.

One of the swimming teachers is Zoe Holloway, 21, of Newport, who was inspired to help teach the Swim Safe sessions by the story of her grandmother Valerie Lynn, who nearly drowned in the River Thames as an eight-year-old child.

Non-swimmer Valerie, who is now 78, has been scared of open water for 70 years after the incident, which saw her get into difficulty in the London River before being pulled out of the water by a teenager.

Zoe, who works as a club swimming teacher around her studies at Cardiff Metropolitan University, said: ‘There were no swimming lessons back then and my grandmother was very lucky not to have drowned. But that one incident has led to a lifetime of uncertainty around open water for her.

‘That made me want to sign up as a Swim Safe teacher because these sessions are teaching kids vital skills to give them the confidence to enjoy themselves safely.’

It is the first year Swim Safe has been held in Barry and such was the demand for places extra sessions had to be laid on for all the parents keen to enrol their children. Across the UK, the programme has so far taught over 12,000 children.

Hanna Guise, of Swim Wales, said: 'It’s fantastic that we’ve had the high level of interest in Swim Safe in its first year here on Barry Island.

‘Many of the children taking part will have had swimming lessons in pools, but there are all sorts of environmental factors to consider when you’re swimming outdoors and it’s important that children know how to call for help if they get into trouble.’

Nicola Davies, RNLI Community Incident Reduction Manager, added: ‘Every year more than 400 people drown in the UK. In 2015 RNLI volunteer lifeboat crews saved 348 lives and the charity’s lifeguards saved 92 lives but, sadly, not everyone can be saved. Working with Swim Wales and the ASA, Swim Safe is part of the RNLI’s drive to reduce the numbers of people who drown around our coastline. 

‘Being in and around the sea brings its own dangers, particularly cold water shock and rip currents, and these sessions help children understand the dangers and know how to deal with them should they get into trouble.’

Unfortunately all spaces on these free sessions have been fully booked but parents or carers can keep checking for availability on the Swim Safe website at www.Swimming.org/SwimSafe or simply come along on the day and put their child’s name on a reserve list.

Notes to editors:

The attached photos show children enjoying the Swim Safe sessions on Whitmore Bay, Barry Island, today (Friday 12 August). Credit Julian Morgan.

For more information please contact Chris Cousens, RNLI Press Officer, Wales and West, on 07748 265496 or 01745 585162 or by email on chris_cousens@rnli.org.uk.

About Swim Safe
Swim Safe began in 2013 and ran for five weeks in Bude, Cornwall, teaching local children and those holidaying in the area how to be safe in and around the sea. By 2015 the programme had expanded to Bude, Bournemouth, Sandhaven, the Lake District, the Isle of Man, Plymouth and Jersey and included the introduction of Swim Safe For Schools. This year the programme will be delivered in over 13 locations with thousands of places available. For more information visit www.swimming.org/swimsafe

About Swim Wales
Swim Wales is the Welsh national governing body for swimming, diving, synchronised swimming and water polo. There are over 80 affiliated clubs, which are supported by Swim Wales through a national and regional structure. For more information visit: www.swimwales.org

About the ASA
The ASA (Amateur Swimming Association) is the English national governing body for swimming, diving, synchronised swimming and water polo. It organises competitions throughout England, establishes the laws of the sport, and operates a comprehensive certification and education programmes for teachers, coaches and officials. There are over 1,000 affiliated swimming clubs which are supported by the ASA through a national, regional and county structure. Millions of children have been taught to swim through the ASA’s learn to swim programmes. The ASA also develops programmes and initiatives to increase the number of people swimming more often.  For more information visit: www.swimming.org/asa

Key facts about the RNLI

The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates over 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and, in a normal year, more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

Learn more about the RNLI

For more information please visit the RNLI website or Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. News releases, videos and photos are available on the News Centre.

Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or by email.