The decision could offer an alternative bathing spot to Grantchester Meadows Mr Ignavy / Creative Commons (

Students wishing to swim in the Cam may soon be able to do so with more confidence in their safety.

Cambridge City Council has voted to support the application of a local voluntary group, the Cam Valley Forum, to designate a 270m stretch of river at Sheep’s Green, on Coe Fen, as a bathing spot.

A bathing water designation application for the area will be made to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) this month. A successful outcome would see the Environment Agency testing the water at Sheep’s Green each week throughout the bathing season.

If the water quality was found to be “poor” in the first year, as the voluntary group expects, the agencies identified as major polluters would have legally have to ensure it is cleaned.

Students told Varsity of their past dangerous swimming experiences: “Someone who was hospitalised” after they swam in the Cam, said one student.

Another, who became ill just days after taking a dip said he “thought [he] was going to pass out on the toilet.”


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The same student said it was not uncommon for the training programmes of the university’s boat clubs to be interrupted by sewage leaks. “Nobody rows sometimes,” he said. A submission to Rowbridge, a Facebook confessions page for rowers, describes what is colloquially known as “the poo zone” after a sewage leak.

More formal reports of the Cam’s contamination include Robinson’s college nurse warning students last summer not to enter the river due to the possibility of catching Weil’s disease, contracted from the urine of infected rats.

The popular student swimming spot of Grantchester Meadows is ineligible for designation under DEFRA guidance. However, the Cam Valley Forum hopes the designation of Sheep’s Green “will benefit the whole river.”