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Grantchester Meadows campaigners hopeful of swim ban being lifted after meeting with King’s College



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Campaigners who launched a petition against the River Cam swimming ban at Grantchester Meadows were feeling “positive” that the decision could be reversed following a meeting with landowner King’s College on Tuesday.

Earlier this month, the University of Cambridge college put up signs declaring that swimming and launching watercraft at Grantchester Meadows would no longer be allowed. The notices were met with outrage from those who swim regularly at the beauty spot.

Swimmers are hopeful the ban on swimming at Grantchester Meadows will be lifted. Picture: Keith Heppell
Swimmers are hopeful the ban on swimming at Grantchester Meadows will be lifted. Picture: Keith Heppell

Wildlife charity worker Camila Isley, who started the petition, met on Tuesday with the college bursar and councillors to discuss a way forward that would see swimming in the river allowed. And she was joined by parish councillors who wanted to learn more about the college’s idea to give local authorities more responsibility for public access to the meadows.

Ms Isley said: “It’s looking very positive. It really does look like everyone wants the same thing and it has just been terrible communication up until now.

“Everyone feels that they want to continue to allow access to the river. The concern really is about the overuse of the meadows and people’s safety going in the river.

“The sign will be changed to be more welcoming and informative and we will be working on that as a group. The group will work together to put forward a long-term plan that doesn’t ask people not to swim. I think we are a long way from resolution, the signs are not coming down immediately but there is a will for them to be replaced with a more positive message."

Several protest swims were organised in the wake of the ban, including one by tenants’ union ACORN on Saturday.

The signage at the Newnham end of Grantchester Meadows which says swimming is no longer allowed. Picture: Keith Heppell. (49240892)
The signage at the Newnham end of Grantchester Meadows which says swimming is no longer allowed. Picture: Keith Heppell. (49240892)

Caitlin Cheshire, 23, from ACORN, said: “Swimming there has been a long-standing tradition. I know the college is reviewing the decision but we really want to send a message to them that this is something the community cares about and there are ways to go forward with this that don’t involve a ban. If safe swimming is an issue, there should be safe swimming access points. There should be barbecue areas like the ones on Jesus Green and bins to help with
the littering.”

ACORN members protest against the swimming ban at Grantchester Meadows. Picture: ACORN (49138744)
ACORN members protest against the swimming ban at Grantchester Meadows. Picture: ACORN (49138744)

Meanwhile, Grantchester parish councillor Maggie Challis suggested a new way to run the meadows for the public benefit, citing Wandlebury Country Park, which is run by Cambridge Past, Present and Future.

She said: “If I had a personal preference, it would be for an organisation such as Cambridge PPF or the Wildlife Trust to take it on, because I think they have more experience of an ecological approach to land management, whereas I think the councils are familiar with managing places that are open access public resources, but there isn’t always a very strong ecological emphasis to what they do. And the meadows really needs that as much as it needs the grass cutting. I think a lot of anxiety is around the damage done to wildlife and the river.”

Following the meeting, all four councils have offered to work with King’s as the landowner and share expertise to develop a longer-term management plan for the area – for example, drawing on the knowledge within the City Council’s Streets and Open Spaces team. This work is due to continue over the summer.

A ladder in the water to help swimmers at Grantchester Meadows where swimming is to be disallowed. Picture: Keith Heppell. (49240895)
A ladder in the water to help swimmers at Grantchester Meadows where swimming is to be disallowed. Picture: Keith Heppell. (49240895)

Newnham Cllr Lucy Nethsinga said: “I’m delighted we had such a constructive meeting and were united in our determination to find ways to maintain Grantchester Meadows as somewhere many people continue to come to find peace and beauty. With our city growing fast, we may need to work with King’s on how to manage the area for the future, and it is excellent that all four councils have expressed their willingness.”

The first bursar of King’s, Keith Carne, added: “We are very pleased the meeting was productive and grateful for the constructive suggestions made. King’s College has always tried to work with local councils and residents to ensure safe access to the Meadows. We hope to work with them to develop this and keep the meadows safe and attractive.”

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