Southwater Country Park

Paddling beach trial

Public feedback from a recent Horsham District Council user survey regarding a new booking system for the paddling beach at Southwater Country Park has now been received and the results analysed.

The booking system was put in place to manage the volume of people on the beach during peak periods and make the beach safer and more enjoyable for children and families.

Commenting on the survey results Horsham District Council Cabinet Member for Leisure and Culture Cllr Roger Noel said:

"Whilst the Council is delighted to have so many visitors from across the region to this ever popular destination, the cost of this success has unfortunately in the past brought about issues regarding parking, litter, overcrowding on the beach area and anti-social behaviour.

User responses to the survey were overwhelmingly positive and told us that not only was the booking system easy to use, but also the paddling beach was clean, safe, and it was easier to see the children in the water. It was great to hear that the visiting families enjoyed their sessions so much.

For the first time in many years, this summer we did not receive complaints from residents about off-street or poor parking, or excess litter in the park. We saw a reduction in night-time activity in the park and reports of people entering the water after hours also decreased.

In light of this feedback and information, we’ve decided to run the booking system trial again in peak times during summer 2022. The temporary fence around the beach area will stay up, but other than during peak holiday periods the gate will remain open and access to the beach will be open to all.

We know that the mediocre weather this year may have put off some visitors, so in running the booking system trial for a second year we will see if it continues to help make the park run more smoothly and create an overall improved visitor experience.

Many thanks to all who took part in the survey."

During summer 2022, the Council plans to conduct a further consultation with local residents and visitors to Southwater Country Park to determine how the park will evolve for future generations, and where future investments could be made.

The Council is acutely aware of the strong sentiment surrounding the welfare of the wildlife, and in particular the swans, in the park and it very much shares this sentiment.

The Council’s Countryside Warden team, together with the Swan and Friends Bird Rescue organisation do not believe that the fence has any negative impact on the welfare of any of the wildlife at the site.

Commenting on the situation, a Swans and Friends Bird Rescue spokesperson said:

"The Swans and Friends Bird Rescue team come out to Southwater Country Park to rescue injured and distressed waterfowl which is a key part of our role. We have seen the new fencing and believe it serves an important purpose in keeping dogs from the beach area where they disturb the waterfowl which may rest there. It also helps to keep the area clean.

The recent shooting of two cygnets at the park was nothing to do with the new fencing and is a totally separate issue involving individuals committing a wildlife crime which is a police matter, not a matter for the Council.

A £1,000 reward has already been offered for information leading to the successful prosecution of the culprits."