Open access, open to all, all year round
Clevedon Marine Lake is a piece of aquatics history, born out of a sea swimming heritage pre-dating the first, annual Clevedon Long Swim in 1928. Today, both Clevedon Marine Lake and Clevedon’s seawaters are a regular training ground for long distance swimmers who have swum the world over, and the lake provides a calmer environment for all water lovers – recreational, competitive and endurance.
Thanks to Councillor Frederick Robert Nutting, who believed that a sea lake would be a great asset to Clevedon, on March 30th, 1929, the Lord Mayor of Bristol, Councillor W H Eyles officially opened Clevedon Marine Lake and the recreation ground on Salthouse Fields.
High Diving and Springboard
Clevedon Marine Lake was lavishly equipped with a timber clubhouse and changing-room, high diving and springboards, a bathing raft, deckchairs, a row of bathing huts and a bandstand – and remained a much loved, Victorian seaside attraction until visitor numbers declined in the 1970s.
For 30 years from 1957, during the summer holidays, the lake was managed by Joyce Gregory and her daughter Rita. Rita was a very accomplished competitive swimmer and diver, who made good use of the facilities.
With an increase in foreign travel throughout the 1980s the use of the lake began to decline, as did the necessary finances to maintain it. As a result of lack of maintenance and vandalism, Joyce and Rita called time on their tenure; swimming was banned at the lake and the access steps were removed. However, Clevedon Sailing Club remained a stalwart supporter throughout this time, launching a fleet of Minnow dinghies sponsored by local businesses, serving to buoy interest in sailing on the lake and in the estuary.
Councillor Arthur Knott, who was also Clevedon Sailing Club’s Cadet Officer, recognised the importance and value of Clevedon Marine Lake to the local community so set up MARLENS (Marine Lake Enthusiasts) in 2004, to lobby for the lake’s renaissance.
As a result, and after much neglect, 2004 saw the lake’s fortunes change thanks to a community partnership that resulted in the lake being used for sailing, canoeing, open water swimming and model boat sailing – subsequently promoted annually through Marlens’ festival.
In 2014 the Heritage Lottery Fund awarded an £800,000 grant to Marlens to help make Clevedon Marine Lake ‘as good as new’, in partnership with North Somerset Council, Clevedon Town Council and Clevedon Civic Society. The £1m renovation project was undertaken from April to September 2015, rolling back 80 years of pounding by the sea and giving the lake a new lease of life.
In recognition of the amazing work undertaken by volunteers from 2004 to 2015, Marlens is proud and delighted to have been awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service for 2016 following the lake’s renovation. It’s the highest award a voluntary group can receive in the UK.
MARLENS, the charity behind the lake, continues to fundraise toward the management and further development of Clevedon Marine Lake for all to enjoy.