Updated: Children taken ill after splashing about in the river

A group of children were taken ill over the weekend following an afternoon of fun in the river.

With it being a gloriously sunny day, five children from three families decided to jump in the River Bollin in The Carrs and have a swim on Friday, 19th April,

Approximately 36 hours later they started suffering from sickness and diarrhoea.

Sarah Hirst told wilmslow.co.uk "My youngest son, Ralph (10), was very sick for over 12 hours over Easter Sunday and had a terrible day. Both boys went back to bed and could not enjoy their Easter at all.

"Of the six families (13 children) who met at the Carrs on Friday all five of the children who swam in the water (rather than paddled) have been very sick. All were sick after approximately 36 to 50 hours afterwards. The children who did not swim were not sick. The children only met there, did not eat the same things and were not in contact for the rest of the weekend. It was a terrible sickness that made them feel weak and shaky. They all projectile vomited at some point and had diarrhoea too. It is very worrying in a family area."

Camilla Langrick's 9 and 11 year old children were amongst those affected. She said "We had just arrived in Lytham from Yorkshire yesterday on a day out at the beach when my youngest daughter was violently ill all over the car, my other daughter was sick last night. It has ruined a beautiful bank holiday weekend for us. There needs to be more information, signage or something, to warn us of the dangers."

Sarah Hirst added "On researching this it appears this is not an isolated incident and has happened before at this location. This is most concerning and something other families should be aware of as this is a very popular place for children to swim and cool off."

Updated: 12noon 25th April

A spokesperson for Cheshire East Council, said: "We were sorry to hear about these incidences. While people may choose to play or swim in streams and rivers, especially during hot weather, they do so at their own risk.

"The River Bollin, which runs through The Carrs Park, in Wilmslow, is a natural water source and is untreated – it is not suitable for drinking.

"It means that anyone choosing to swim in it is at risk of contracting a gastrointestinal infection, the symptoms of which include vomiting and diarrhoea.

"If you do choose to swim in open water, the advice from Public Health England includes avoiding swallowing the water, showering soon after swimming and washing your hands before eating."

River Bollin, The Carrs


Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below.

Oliver Romain
Tuesday 23rd April 2019 at 3:47 pm
Sorry to hear of the illnesses. This seems to happen every year. Yes I agree a sign would be useful. I don't think people will stop paddling and swimming etc but they may choose not mix with eating afterwards. Even anti-bacterial gels are unlikely to deal with the harmful organisms that cause these illnesses.
Terry Roeves
Tuesday 23rd April 2019 at 6:16 pm
Environmental Authority hot line to report river pollution is
0800 80 70 60
Take a small sample of the water in a clean bottle for them.
Believe this is a recent problem. Plenty of children have bathed or paddled in
the river over the years, without incident. Cattle and sheep have also been in fields up stream for years.
Only difference might be the increasing numbers of new housing along the watershed. Run off from gardens - fertilisers and weedkillers spring to mind.
Wildlife in and along the river have definitely reduced or disappeared.
Nick Jones
Tuesday 23rd April 2019 at 6:55 pm
Historically Prestbury Water treatment (sewage farm) and Wilmslow Water treatment , going back a fair number of years have had issues with their output levels.. before even considering any other land drainage chemicals. Its at its cleanest in Macc Forest, then after Lamaload , Prestbury, Wilmslow Hale it just deteriorates. It might be running water, but it certainly isnt clean akin to The River Test and Itchen in Hampshire.
Oliver Romain
Tuesday 23rd April 2019 at 7:56 pm
Shame, as I see Trout in the river regularly so it must be clean of pollutants that kill off fish and other aquatic life.
I avoid paddling after heavy rain due to run off concerns, but these illnesses were during a dry period. It happens regularly now.
If it happens to you or your family (or has happened before) please tell this website so we can start to build up evidence of a pattern.
When I was involved with Friends of the Carr’s I objected to the council putting stepping stones in this part of the river as I felt it was not safe enough. My main concern was risk of drowning, but it turns out that the river water quality may be a significant risk too.
Pete Taylor
Tuesday 23rd April 2019 at 7:58 pm
Apart from the large sewage farm at Prestbury there is a United Utilities water treatment works just upstream from this incident. It is between the railway viaduct and Manchester Road (opposite whet is still known as Gibson's Yard). One would have imagined that the output (if any) into the Bollin would be monitored but clearly something nasty has got into the river from somewhere.
Julie Green
Tuesday 23rd April 2019 at 9:12 pm
Hopefully they're all feeling better now. Sadly this is nothing new. Decades ago the story was that very little wildlife could live in the river due to all the sewage and chemical works discharges into the Bollin.
Pete Taylor
Tuesday 23rd April 2019 at 9:19 pm
@Julie, my son is 27 today(!) when he was about 12-13 he started to catch decent-sized trout in the river; I think the Mersey Basin project kick-started a massive clean-up. Obviously things can go wrong; a couple of years ago "teaspoon-full of something" got into the upper Irwell and killed the fish, invertebrates and other "critters" for 20 miles downstream.
Julie Niven
Tuesday 23rd April 2019 at 10:05 pm
There was a similar incident a couple of years ago when a number of teenagers were taken ill with similar symptoms of vomiting and muscle aches, after bathing in the Bollin. It was so significant that it had to be reported to Cheshire East Environmental Health and Public Health England - samples were taken and the infection proved to be as a result of being in The Bollin. Cattle graze further upstream, close to the riverbank - enough said.

At the time, we asked Cheshire East Environmental Health to put a warning sign around the area in The Carrs, where young families are known to bathe in the river. It fell on deaf ears.

My kids and their friends won't be paddling in the Bollin again, but sadly each year many children fall foul of this polluted stretch of river, at a time when they are enjoying the school holidays and warm weather.
Kate Ravenscroft
Wednesday 24th April 2019 at 3:25 pm
I'm sure I'll get shouted down for this and I'm sorry the kids became ill but I've lived in Wilmslow and near the Bollin all my life. I was NEVER allowed in it (and never went in it) as a child and I never let my own kids go in it either.
Whenever I see the river full of children in sunny weather I shudder as to what they might be in contact with in there.
Maybe a sign would help but you only need to look and smell to know that water isn't clean - and look at all the dogs that go in and out of it. It's really not somewhere to swim or even paddle, it doesn't make sense to me that anyone does this or allows their kids to do it.
James Wareham
Wednesday 24th April 2019 at 5:06 pm
We frequently walk along parts of the Bollin above the Carrs and it often smells of effluent, as it always did when we were children , there is something entering the river that shouldn't .As for seeing trout, this was only for a brief period, but nothing for some time.
Oliver Romain
Wednesday 24th April 2019 at 5:32 pm
We had a sickness case in in our family last year linked to paddling in the river. Does anyone have a laminator? If so contact me @oliverromain70 and I’ll print up some temporary signs.
Jon Armstrong
Wednesday 24th April 2019 at 6:21 pm
I'm surprised at the comments about the lack of wildlife in and around the Bollin. I regularly see trout and the heron who presumably eat them. If you're lucky and watchful you can occasionally see kingfishers.
David Smith
Wednesday 24th April 2019 at 6:48 pm
Nick Jones and Kate Ravenscroft are spot on. If Nick had not mentioned the sewage works upstream, I WOULD HAVE DONE. It amazes me that adults with young children don't have the common sense to even question whether water in the Bollin might possibly be a bit 'iffy'. You only have to look at it and be a bit wary of letting a dog in there. Does nobody even think that swimming pools on holiday where the water is crystal clear have chemicals in them for a reason - to prevent bacterial infection that comes from weeing in the pool and the cleansing of swimmers' bums and other ‘areas’? For the same reasons how anyone would want to immerse themselves into a Jacuzzi or a hot tub is beyond me! So people, get real and stop wondering why children get ill when playing in such dodgy looking water. It's their parents’ responsibility and fault if illness ensues. Some sort of notice with advice (probably from the council) would be a good idea as suggested by Oliver Romain, to warn of any after effects.
Alan Brough
Wednesday 24th April 2019 at 8:32 pm
As many have pointed out, the “risks” of bathing in a river should be well understood.

Whilst the rush for the laminator is commendable, I’d ask where does it end?

It’s about time people took more responsibility for their own safety and well-being and stopped trying to ascribe responsibility to others. If we continue on that route we can wave goodbye to access to anything unless sanctioned by “The Authorities.” As an example can I offer the fenced-off Lindow Common?
Peter Davenport
Wednesday 24th April 2019 at 9:29 pm
Dear All.
My Wife and I walk for the papers by the Unicorn on Dene Row.
Almost every day we or I see at least 2 large tanker wagons, full of sludge or whatever, going to Knutsford Sewage farm or the Alderley Edge one, from Prestbury
I wrote them re this, and it is patently obvious Prestbury one is overloaded, and probably the Wilmslow one as well, as, if your memory is good, several years ago, a vehicle knocked down part of the exit near Twinnies Bridge. Also do not forgot, how much money has not been spent on services during the last few years?
Oliver Romain
Wednesday 24th April 2019 at 11:12 pm
Benches and tables have created a lovely picnic area next to a relatively shallow river with 'a sandy beach'. Who can blame families for cooling off and paddling in the Bollin? I would have done the same this weekend if I was not away.
I was on the Friends of the Carrs committee when the funding for the extra benches and bbq pits was discussed. Infection was not discussed by the council representative or the members. We did not know about the infection risk at the time. All this can be reconsidered, but in the interim, I will put up a couple of small temporary notices to help people make an informed decision.
People do not know where the sewage works are and many people come from outside the area to use this lovely spot. You can't reasonably expect everyone to know about water quality - they need to be informed.
I have a young family and am grateful to this website and those who shared their stories and concerns for raising this issue. The family affected are letting others know and calling for notices because they don't want others to suffer, not because they are blaming others.
David Smith
Thursday 25th April 2019 at 11:41 am
Fine, Oliver, but 'parenting' means looking after your children and often making judgements that involve their safety and welfare. As the water looks brown and quite unappealing, it isn't necessary to know that there is a sewage treatment works upstream. You just need to have the common sense to think that the colour of the water might indicate that there could be. Years ago I went hiking in the Alps where it might be expected that a small mountain stream of clear water had just run off some pristine melting snow. The advice much promulgated against having a drink was that it should always be imagined there was a mountain goat higher up having a wee in the same pristine clear water and even higher up another hiker washing out a pair of knickers and sweaty socks. So why should it not be imagined that a stream of brackish water flowing through a town shouldn't have a sewage farm further upstream? Common sense.
Oliver Romain
Friday 26th April 2019 at 1:09 pm
Okay everyone. Putting politics to the side for now, I am working on the public health issue from the Carrs. I know that some of you know about the risks from the Bollin already, however, the evidence is clear that many people do not and are contracting the sickness bugs. This then has a knock on effect on the NHS as doctors have to deal lots of cases of infection. So it costs us all money and results in more pressure on local services.
People do not need lectures on parenting or told what to do, but they generally want information.
Action: I have now put up posters at both paddling areas in the Carrs advising of the risk and precautions. The CEC response only deals with swimming. I know people who have contracted the sickness from paddling briefly. From the people I spoke to this morning about a third knew of the risks. These tended to be older people.
Concern: Many were also worried about the impacts on the health of their dogs from the water and a council worker informed me there have been a number of dogs drown in the fast running stretch at the Twinnies Bridge. Also I have been informed about a few near misses where dogs have had to be rescued.
Planned Action: I will put up a couple of temporary warning posters about the risk of drowning too at the Twinnies bridge. I have been informed that a child drowned here to but don't have information on this. Can anyone verify please?
I am in the process of notifying the local schools and nurseries about the infection risk today. If any readers are on local facebook groups I would be grateful if you could share this article too.
This is non political. So if any councillors, candidates or activists from other parties wish to help please join in. You can let me or everyone know what you have done via twitter or this site so we don't double up. All help gratefully received and acknowledged. @oliverromain70 on twitter to contact.
In the long run we need to think if the picnic benches etc should be moved or a permanent warning sign installed. I will speak to Friends of the Carrs to discuss how the community responds.
I didn't see any trolls under the bridge this morning but maybe we could arrange for a local troll to give up their important internet work and sit under the bridge scaring the children away. ;-)
David Smith
Monday 29th April 2019 at 8:58 am
In the long run it would be very sensible to remove the sandy 'mini beach' by making the river deeper at this point so that nobody thinks it is a paddling/swimming pool and so not be invited into the river. There is also an area further upstream with a waterfall. I've seen families here too innocently having a picnic with children playing on the sandy 'beach' as if they were at the seaside. The river here too should be remodelled and made deeper to remove any attraction into the water.
Oliver Romain
Monday 29th April 2019 at 3:15 pm
I posted a message and link to this article on the Next Door app. A few mums thanked me and one said they knew a friend who had suffered from the bug. She was grateful for the reminder and posted a message on a local social media.
A member of the public has removed the signs including the missing pets ones. Very frustrating. It’s the young families who don’t know who will suffer if there is no information to help them choose.
Martin Theobald
Tuesday 30th April 2019 at 9:18 am
Re: ...there is a United Utilities water treatment works just upstream from this incident. It is between the railway viaduct and Manchester Road (opposite whet is still known as Gibson's Yard). One would have imagined that the output (if any) into the Bollin would be monitored but clearly something nasty has got into the river from somewhere.

This works appears to be related to the some treating treating but mostly the pumping of freshwater rather than the treatment of waste.

Some information about the original works, that appears to have been on the west side of Manchester Road, can be found here: https://flic.kr/p/fGSYWT

The weir in the River Bollin that happens to be adjacent to the current works would appear to be for the Environmental Agency river flow measurements.

See: https://nrfa.ceh.ac.uk/data/station/info/69012

And: https://flood-warning-information.service.gov.uk/station/5153?direction=u
Jonathan Fox
Tuesday 30th April 2019 at 7:57 pm
Sadly these days there is a lack of common sense and knowledge of the natural environment. People mention pollution but seem oblivious to natural causes. Weil's disease is a form of a bacterial infection also known as Leptospirosis that is carried by animals, most commonly in rats and cattle. When they urinate it ends up in the river either directly or through run off. Weil's disease can be very serious and often affects river users. Cryptosporidium and Giardia intestinalis parasites are also found in river water. Anything that has died upstream will also pollute the river. I remember this all too well from a geography trip to Malham. My friends wanted to drink the crystal clear water at the bottom of Gordale Scar but were advised not to. Luckily they didn't as we later found a dead sheep floating in Gordale Beck. Any manure, fertiliser or pesticides that have been sprayed onto the fields will end up in the river. That's aside from anything that could have gotten into it in Macclesfield.
Pete Taylor
Tuesday 30th April 2019 at 10:31 pm
Thanks for the info Martin.
Kate Chappell
Friday 31st May 2019 at 12:46 pm
My two year old has been violently sick several times this morning after paddling in the Bollin two days ago on Wednesday.

I’m now waiting for one of my other daughters and their friends to begin.

The sad thing is that we saw the small biohazard warning only AFTER paddling - when we put the rubbish from our picnic into the bin.... I so wish there’d been a warning notice in easy view for families who walk between the car park up and the pebbly beach Shown above (we didn’t cross the bridge so didn’t see the notice there til afterwards too - but thank you to whoever put them up because at least we know what it is that’s making them sick).

Today is the first day of our holiday weekend at Centerparcs which my littlest one was really looking forward to. It’s terribly sad she’s now so ill and won’t be able to enjoy any of it.

We’d never have let them paddle if a notice had been easily visible near the spot. Ironically we didn’t see the bin because we were so focused on keeping them safe paddling in the water.

I’d hate for other little ones to experience what my two year old is going through now.
Could the Council or Friends possibly make the notice easier to spot?

Thanking you in advance.