King’s College reviews its ban on swimming and boating at Grantchester Meadows

King’s has also said it ‘cannot imagine any circumstances’ under which the college would prosecute anyone ‘swimming responsibly’

King’s College has promised a review of its ban on swimming and boating at Grantchester Meadows in consultation with campaigners, and has said it “cannot imagine any circumstances” under which the college would prosecute anyone “swimming responsibly.”

This follows a petition, signed by more than 17,000 people, protesting the college’s ban, as well as defacing of ‘no swimming’ signs at Grantchester Meadows.

Although Camila Ilsley, the local resident who started the petition, is “very happy” about the review, she hopes it will be a “genuine conversation” that will eventually “restore public access to the river without any restrictions.” She suggested people would be carrying on swimming in the area, and that “protest swims are on the horizon.”

The ban on swimming and boating at Grantchester Meadows was imposed last Thursday (01/07) by King’s, who own the land, with the erection of ‘no swimming’ notices in the area.

Over the weekend, the ban was openly flouted and at least one ‘no swimming’ sign was defaced. A spoof notice on King’s headed notepaper was posted at the site, mocking what it portrayed as an elitist decision by the college.

Addressed to “Dear Peasants”, it said: “The fact that Grantchester Meadows and the river have been enjoyed by and provided inspiration to generations of people is irrelevant, we own the land.”

King’s said there remained a problem with antisocial behaviour at Grantchester Meadows but it had agreed to review the ban in consultation with campaigners.

The college has agreed to meet with Camila Ilsley, a local resident who set up the protest petition, and Lucy Nethsingha, the leader of Cambridgeshire County Council.

On Monday (05/07), a King’s spokesperson told The Guardian: “The advice we have been given would suggest that legally it is not sufficient for us to indicate that entering the river would be ‘at the swimmer’s own risk’, unless we have taken action to prevent swimming. This advice will be reviewed.

“In the meantime, we cannot imagine any circumstances under which the college would bring a civil claim against someone swimming responsibly.”

When asked by The Guardian if the ‘no swimming’ signs would be removed, the spokesperson said a decision could be made on this by today (06/07).

Ilsley said to The Guardian: “I’m very happy about the review and that it happened so quickly, but I hope it will be a genuine conversation. Our bottom line is to restore public access to the river without any restrictions.”

“Ending our right to access the water cuts out most of the enjoyment. Being able to swim and come to the meadows by boat is a big part of living in Cambridge and has been for donkeys’ years.”

“People are carrying on normal swimming, including me. Protest swims are on the horizon, but I’m going to keep out of that while the negotiations are on.”

Nethsingha told The Guardian that it’s now “time for a serious conversation between all partners about the future management of the area”, and that she is “very glad” that King’s is “now willing to engage with that discussion.”

Upon being asked by The Guardian whether she would advise people to continue swimming at Grantchester, she said: “Swimmers in small groups actually swimming do no harm, but there are real issues when there are large groups larking about at the water edge for the whole summer.”

Feature image credit: John Sutton, Creative Commons License