The River Thames is a hot spot for activity, particularly during the hot summer months.
As great as it can be for cooling off, it is important to remember that the Thames is a dangerous river - its strong current, houseboats and debris can all cause serious risk to life.
Swimming in rivers is very different to a pool. In addition to strong currents, the cold-water temperature can easily shock, limit ability to breathe and can make you tired very quickly.
Before getting in, check to make sure you are able to get out again. Steep and slippery banks can make it hard to get out and if you are tired you can get into difficulty.
Don’t swim alone - it is better to go near the water with a friend or family member and stay visible to avoid unnecessary risks.
You never know what is beneath the surface. Hazards include rocks, broken glass, bikes, needles and pollution in the water.
Never jump from height – particularly from Richmond’s bridges. The water beneath can be very shallow and there are hidden dangers. Your body can also go into shock on contact with cold water.
Alcohol or drugs are a lethal cocktail when swimming. They can limit your ability to swim, lower your inhibitions and increase the chance of taking dangerous risks.
At times of flood, never enter the water.
When in cold water (anything below 15°C), your body can go into cold water shock. If this happens, you lose control of your breathing and movement. Cold water shock also causes your heart rate and blood pressure to quickly increase, which can lead to cardiac arrest.
The average sea temperature around the UK and Ireland is just 12°C. Inland waters like lakes, rivers, lochs and reservoirs can be colder – even in the hot summer months.
Remember, if you find yourself in difficulty in the water, Float to Live.
Learn more about cold water shock.
If you found yourself struggling or entered the water unexpectedly, your instincts would tell you to swim hard. But cold water shock could make you gasp uncontrollably. This could cause you to breathe in water and drown.
The RNLI has five simple steps that could save your life if you get into difficulties in the water:
- If you’re struggling in the water, fight the urge to thrash around
- Lean back extending your arms and legs
- Gently move your limbs to help you float if necessary
- Float until you can control your breathing
- Then call 999, call out for help or swim to safety
Raise the alarm – call 999 and ask for the Coastguard or the London Fire Brigade.
Throw them a line – look out for an emergency throw bag stationed around the river. If you are going to be swimming in the river, learn how to use it. If you can’t spot one, throw them something that floats or something to hold onto.
Stay safe – do not enter the water yourself.
We want to make it easy for you to enjoy the river as safely as possible. Find out how you can enjoy safe activities like rowing and swimming, and find safety information and aids along the river.
Getting out and enjoying activities on or near the water is a great way to keep cool in the summer. To help you plan ahead safely and get well prepared for your adventure, check out these local riverside experiences and leisure activities.
Enjoy a range of paddle board and kayak experiences with Paddle Richmond. This includes lessons, trips, expeditions and adventures on a stunningly beautiful stretch of the River Thames. With fun and safe sessions suitable for any ability level, it is a great way to get out on the water.
Whether you like some competition or are hoping for some recreational fun, your local rowing club offer plenty of opportunities to navigate the water. From racing to sea kayaking, it is a great way to experience the river safely this summer.
River Thames Boat Project
The project offers therapeutic cruises and delivers fun educational activities that brings relaxation, health, and personal development benefits unique to the river setting. The specially adapted and wheelchair-accessible boats provide people, including those with special needs, disabilities or mental health conditions, dynamic river experiences. Find out more about the River Boat Thames Project.
Pools on the Park
This open-air pool is situated in Old Deer Park. With an outdoor pool, plus a paddling pool for the kids, Pools on the Park is the perfect spot for summer fun for the whole family. Due to high demand, book to avoid disappointment.
The year-round heater pool is great for those cooler summer days. Hampton Pool is located next to Royal Bushy Park, it is a refreshing way to spend the day (or the occasional evening – look out for the moonlight swims). The pools are monitored by a team of professional lifeguards ensuring you can swim safely.
Information and aids
Posters and leaflets have been distributed to key sites across the borough, where swimming and water sports are popular. They are also displayed on bridges and points where people may be tempted to jump in from height.
Information boards can be found in the following locations:
- Ham House and car park
- Warren Footpath, near Hammertons Ferry
- Radnor Gardens
- Barge Walk, Kingston Bridge end
- Teddington Lock
- Richmond Canoe club
- River Lane, Ham
- Riverside Twickenham, near the White Swan
- Old Palace Lane, Richmond
- Barge Walk, Hampton Court Palace end
- Thames Young Marina Inlet
- Riverside Twickenham, near the Barmy Arms
- Riverside Richmond, near the Slug & Lettuce
- Taggs Island
- Garricks Lawn
- Bell Hill
Water safety aids are also available along the river. If you spot a missing aid, please report it to the police or contact the Community Safety team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The RNLI provide safety advice and tips that can help keep you and your loved ones safe in the water this summer.
Up to: Community safety
Updated: 20 July 2023