THE hidden dangers of swimming in ponds, lakes and streams have been highlighted by Oxford City Council.

'Look before you leap' and 'don't drink and drown' are among the warnings in the authority's new Wild Water Code.

Launching its safety guide yesterday the council said: "Swimming in the city’s rivers and lakes is not without risk. Every year there are water safety incidents and drownings.

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"To help people stay safe this summer, the Oxford Water Safety Group, a partnership chaired by Oxford City Council, has launched the Wild Water Code."

• Wild water – swimming in rivers and lakes 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.

• Look before you leap – before getting in, are you going to be able to get out again? Steep and slippery banks can make it hard to get out and if tired you can get into difficulty.

• Hidden dangers – you never know what’s beneath the surface. Hazards include rocks, broken glass, bikes, needles and pollution in the water.

• Rock bottom – Never jump from height – particularly Oxford’s bridges. The water beneath can be very shallow and there are hidden dangers.

• Don’t drink and drown – drink 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.

• Raise the alarm – call 999 – never try to enter the water yourself.

As part of a programme of work to raise awareness, Oxford City Council has spoken to around 1,000 children at Cherwell School and St Mary & St John Primary CE School before they finish for the summer holidays.

Oxford City Council also offers free swimming sessions for children aged under 16 and living in the city, and free lessons for under-16s from low income families. For more information visit the website.

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Councillor Linda Smith said: “The safest place to swim is in one of the city’s excellent swimming pools, particularly as we have great free swimming offers for under-16s.

“But if you’re tempted to swim in Oxford’s rivers and lakes, remember that wild swimming comes with real risks.

“The shock of cold water, hidden hazards, the temptation to drink alcohol and swim – these are all real risks and even strong swimmers can easily get into trouble. Most importantly – jumping in, particularly from bridges has proved fatal in the past.”