New perspectives on water and ecology

Photo: Mike Cox

Photo: Mike Cox

The final report for Immersion has now been completed – Immersion: A Strategic Framework for Eco-recreation in British Waters delivers a unique perspective on the future of sustainable water recreation.

Essential reading for strategic organisations and others in the UK whose work impinges on water environments. Drawing on major social and ecological themes it:

  • Sets out the case for more sustainable leisure use of waterscapes in the UK.
  • Explores the major challenges for water ecologies in the 21st century.
  • Visions a radical new future for redundant lidos and pools as facilities for recreation, aquaculture and education
Non native species café - portable version

Non native species café – portable version


  • British waters – a cultural resource
  • Water and wellbeing
  • Wild swimming
  • Regeneration of coastal towns
  • Coastal access
  • The rise and fall of the lido
  • Environmental pressures on water habitats
  • Aquaculture
  • Climate change and water
  • Invasive non-native species
  • Regenerating British lidos
  • Sustainable freshwater aquaculture sites
  • Freshwater invasive/unwanted migrant species repositories
  • Sustainable marine aquaculture
  • Preliminary identification of marine sites
  • Marine invasive/unwanted migrant species repositories
  • Purpose built facilities/rapid response units to areas of need

Murdin, A. Immersion: A Strategic Framework for Eco-recreation in British Waters, 2008, 78pp colour

Report cover


Low res pdf of report (7.2mb)

Full hi res print paperback version available to order £13-95 plus p&p from

Signed hardback with orginal photographic print (limited edition of 100) £30-00 plus p&p contact mail at ruralrecreation dot org dot uk



Immersion sets out bring art, architecture and ecology together to address some of these problems by engendering new attitudes to British waters, particularly by attempting to use the forces of leisure and recreation for the benefit of the environment. The initial research phase has been achieved with with funding from Gunpowder Park, scientific help from the Marine Institute and National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth and in collaboration with Childs Sulzmann architects.

Over the past ten years there has been an increasing recognition of the importance of the value of the British landscape to the wellbeing of the country’s population, over and above its traditional economic value as farmland. The government’s commitment to making the countryside open to all has been manifest in “Right to Roam” legislation, and work such as the Council for the Protection of Rural England’s study on tranquillity has heightened awareness of the need to recognise both physical landscape features and their metaphysical impact.

Marching alongside this rural renaissance have been, now mainstream, environmental initiatives that enhance and preserve ecologically sensitive habitats that everybody can enjoy.

However these successes now need to be extended to a forgotten part of the land, its waters and seas, which remain feared, neglected and sometimes actively despoiled by a significant majority.

In spite of the fact that 72% of the UK’s population visit the coast each year a recent survey by Natural England suggests that people in our country think our waters are terrifying, polluted and unwelcoming and this attitude is mirrored in the environmental impacts. Whilst we have cleaned up our beaches, and otters are returning to some of our rivers there are still major issues to overcome:

  • climate change, warming waters and threatening mass extinctions
  • overfishing, threatening fishery collapse
  • eutrophication (oxygen enrichment of sea water due to nitrate run off from land based farming), causing species depletion
  • invasive species imported into coastal waters, estuaries and rivers
  • pollution from both land sources and shipping ending up as flotsam/jetsam
  • threats to genetic diversity of wild fish stocks from mariculture.

Out of sight, out of mind. We must learn to appreciate our watercourses, streams, culverts, ponds, lakes, reservoirs, rivers, bays, estuaries, marshes and sea again if we, and the flora and fauna we share Britain with, are to survive the inevitable changes to our climate that are taking place. Just because we can’t see under the rolling steel grey surface of the sea, or the rippling river’s current, does not mean we don’t have a major impact on what occurs there.

One major opportunity is our historic waterbased leisure estate. According to 138 open air swimming pools of various descriptions are still open, 28 of which are tidal. 22 more have been closed over the past century but are thought to be reopenable. Add to this the fact that the Marine Conservation Society believes that climate change is now one of the greatest threats to our seas and marine life along with overfishing and you have the opportunity to make new learning places, 21st century pools that mix ecology and fun.

“So now we have our comforts and

The water’s always clear,

We’ve Rules and Regulations, too,

With penalties severe,

Within a nasty wooden hutch

Swimmers remove their clothes

Without a permit signed and sealed

A man can’t blow his nose.

We can’t do this; we can’t do that,

The LCC say “No”.

We can’t dress here, we can’t dress there,

In cages we must go.

The lake was built for honest men,

But we’re becoming slaves.

The LCC rules swimmers though

Britannia rules the waves.”

Charles Roskilly, South London Swimming Club, 1934, in Liquid Assets by Janet Smith

Marine invasive/unwanted migrant species repositories

Some lido/tidal pool sites could be set aside for marine invasive/unwanted migrant species repositories operating on the same principles as an inland version. These could be supplied by local fishermen from neighbouring ports and take as their location areas in need of recreational facilities as part of regeneration initiatives, for example Plymouth and Torbay. In addition to non-native species, where appropriate, they could also display northwardly migrating pelagic species.

Secure, reinforced chassis vehicles would also be needed to transfer species from dock to facilities. These could also be used to take examples of non-native species on outreach tours to beaches and towns as a fully mobile unit.

Rapid response units

Developed in a series of visioning workshops, this concept design for a rapid response unit by architects Childs Sulzmann responds to the need for a re-locatable Marine invasive/unwanted migrant species repository. A large hollowed out structure, the unit would be anchored off sites where infestations were found as its incorporated flotation tanks would enable it to be towed behind a vessel. The star shape facilitates drop off by fishing or scientific vessels who could dock alongside in order to deposit catches through the circular porthole access hatches on the top of the arms. A side entrance to the unit would allow access into the interior chambers for staff/members of the public at low tide, with access via a central top hatch at high tide.

Rapid response unit by Childs Sulzmann

Rapid response unit by Childs Sulzmann

Sustainable marine aquaculture

Seaside lidos and tidal pools offer the chance to create new fish farms that would be significantly better in terms of manageability, bio-security and protection of wild fish sites. Located in seaside towns and village along the UK coast these would be accessible and educational sites, promoting sustainable tourism and encouraging the use of the coast path to the more far flung tidal pools.

Tinside Lido fish farm

Tinside Lido fish farm

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