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As the weather hots up, there’s a warning to stay out of the water

PUBLISHED: 12:12 22 July 2014 | UPDATED: 12:12 22 July 2014

Bawsey Pits. Picture: Ian Burt

Bawsey Pits. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant © 2014

With the heatwave set to stay for the start of the school holidays, sunseekers are being warned not to treat flooded quarries as swimming pools.

The warning comes a year after a man and a teenager drowned at Bawsey Pits, near King’s Lynn.

Hundreds of lakes have been created since the war by sand and gravel working in the Nar, Wensum and Waveney valleys. When mineral extraction is complete, quarries are allowed to flood.

But while many become beauty spots used for fishing, sailing or nature reserves, they are dangerous to swim in.

Gary Stringer, resources director of minerals firm Sibelco, which owns Bawsey Pits, said: “Never, ever think about entering the water. For a start working quarries should be no-go areas for anyone not connected with the business and even those areas where work has stopped are potentially dangerous.

“The water can be much deeper and colder than people expect with sudden shelves and hidden weed.”

Depths can drop to 20ft or more within yards of the bank. At Bawsey there are around 50 no-swimming and safety signs.

An inquest into the death of Ryan Pettengell, 41, from Railway Road, King’s Lynn, recorded a verdict of accidental death, while an inquest into the death of Umar Balogun, from London, has yet to be heard.

The day after they both drowned – July 16, 2013 – people were again swimming in the lakes.

Sibelco said anti-social behaviour and littering had also become issues at the pits. It has formed a Bawsey Futures Group to decide how the site could be turned into a safe country park for families to enjoy.

A public meeeting at the Sandboy at Bawsey two weeks ago heard hundreds had responded to a public consultation carried out in February. “The clear message that was the vast majority supported the idea of change provided the country park status is kept, said Mr Stringer.

“Now some 70 people or so have said they would like to become members of a Futures Group to consider how the site can be managed in future... By the new year we hope to have a clear idea of how Bawsey can be taken forward... For now though I would appeal to everyone, please stay out of the water this summer. We really do not want anyone having to endure the heartache of losing someone they love.”

What do you think should happen to Bawsey Pits? Email chris.bishop@archant.co.uk.

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