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Top grades for bathing water

By Gareth Joy | Updated Friday 2nd December 2022 12:01am |  Follow us @broradio


Bathing water at four Vale locations has been deemed excellent by environmental officers.

It's the first time water quality has been monitored at Penarth and Col-Huw Beach in Llantwit Major - with both areas already achieving the highest standards, according to figures from Natural Resources Wales.

Earlier this year, Penarth Beach became a designated bathing area following a campaign by local resident and keen wild swimmer, James Tennet.

Among those celebrating the news are the 'Dawnstalkers', a group swimmers who meet every day before dawn to swim off Penarth beach as the sun rises, whatever the weather.

Grant Zehtmayer, who started the group with Lene Chmiel, challenged himself to get in the water every day whilst doing Dry January during a Covid lockdown and feeling a need to ''break out from the repression''.

Nearly two years on, the Dawnstalkers attract more than a hundred members with more on the periphery who, according to Grant, dip in and out.

Grant Zehtmayer and James Tennet

Grant said: ''This is nothing short of amazing. I hope this opens up opportunities for our lovely seafront and Penarth in general, while giving confidence that our muddy sea is perfectly good to swim in.''

''Dawnstalkers has changed my life. Knowing that everyday there will be someone ready to brave the cold sea with you is really quite special. Our amazing community are so supportive of each other and that in itself is a big positive tick for our mental health.''

''Cold water swimming is a big mood boost as it produces serotonin and dopamine. Can you get a better start to your day than a happiness hit like that?''

''Working from home can be quite isolating, and now that the cold and dark nights are setting in, we want to welcome anyone to come down and join us at sunrise.''

Across the Vale of Glamorgan, water samples were collected out from six locations between May and September by Natural Resources Wales.

Apart from Penarth and Col-Huw, bathing water quality was categorised as excellent at the Cold Knap in Barry and at Southerndown.

Whitmore Bay at Barry Island was described as 'Good', but nearby Jackson Bay was only considered to be sufficient - the second-lowest category possible, but otherwise deemed to be compliant.


Across Wales, 99% of all water bodies were meeting bathing regulations - and 85 areas assessed nationally achieved top grade.

That's also good news for both of the Vale's Blue Flag beaches - Penarth Marina and Southerndown - which can reapply for their status for next year.

Only one part of Wales failed to make the grade - Marine Lake in Rhyl, an artificial lake used mainly for water sports, was classified as 'poor'.

Clare Pillman, CEO of Natural Resources Wales, said: ''Wales has some of the best beaches and bathing waters in the UK. They're incredibly important to us – boosting tourism and local economies, enhancing the health and wellbeing of our communities and supporting rich biodiversity and ecosystems.''

''We're incredibly proud of the improvements we've seen in our bathing waters in recent decades, and to see the majority of our bathing waters again this year meeting the excellent criteria.''

''But we know there is more to be done. Climate change, pollution and the way we live our lives are all challenges facing our waters, and we must take a Team Wales approach if we are to achieve our ambition of delivering the waters we want for current and future generations.''

The Welsh Government has reminded the public that anyone can put forward their local swimming hotspot for consideration as a designated bathing water.

They hope it will support the boom in cold water swimming that helps people's mental and physical health.


Dr Kat Rayson, a clinical psychologist, was worried about making friends when she moved to Penarth last year.

She said: ''Discovering Dawnstalkers has given me a ready-made community and has just all round made me a happier person. As well as the therapeutic physical response I get from jumping into the cold water, an everyday dip is now built into my routine and a part of managing my wellbeing.''

''People are so friendly despite the ungodly hour and cold, and we know from science that those small every day connections improve our mental health. That's in addition to the shock jolt to our system that cold water induces – kickstarting our metabolism, immune system and our positive responses to stress.''

''When I do dip regularly, I feel a sense of euphoria. I go from being baseline happy to being uber happy. When I don't do it, I notice sadness creeping back in more intensely.''

Jackie Rawlings

One of the more senior 'Dawnstalkers' in the group is 76 year-old Jackie Rawlings: “I've always lived a very busy life. I have four children, have fostered countless more, and previously ran a working farm with my husband and a holiday let business.''

''In 2014, this all changed in a second. My husband had a serious accident in France and then I was diagnosed with breast cancer- life suddenly became very different from before. I went from being full on to right down.''

''Dawnstalkers now provide a wonderful support for me both mentally and physically. The exhilaration experienced from cold water swimming is impossible to describe. Having the support of people that you can talk to when things are tough, knowing you won't be judged, is priceless.''

''I'm so glad I found them. They've changed my life.''

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