An Introduction to Wild Swimming

I was thinking the other day, that of all the wild swims I have posted about, I have not included a beginners guide. So here’s how I read and learned about the wonderful ‘sport’ of wild swimming.

After the initial interest, (visiting the shores of Llyn Idwal and Derwentwater) and of being tempted into the silky waters. I Googled whether it was indeed acceptable to go swimming outdoors in the UK. I discovered that there was a time when there were hundreds of lidos (outdoor pools) in the UK and people didn’t bat an eyelid if you were spotted swimming along a river or paddling in a lake. Today’s mindset that swimming outdoors is dangerous, comes from after WW2 when heated indoor pools became the norm. Thankfully people like Kate Rew, The Wild Swimming Brothers and even Robson Green, are helping swimming outdoors, known as wild swimming, become much more acceptable.

My first port of call for research was Kate Rew’s book Wild Swim, and Daniel Start’s Wild Swimming. Both books, (with stunning photographs) offer insightful recommendations on places to swim by region.

OSS_Logo_300px-01_300_300_c1.jpg

Kate Rew is founder of The Outdoor Swimming Society, an invaluable website with information for anyone interested in wild swimming. Part of the website is a Wild Swim map, an interactive map of the UK where people post reviews on swims with helpful hints, (I’ve even added a couple!)

Many Google searches came up with information on safe swimming. One was by the NHS, and another from The Lake District National Park, which gave a list of lakes that you could swim in and those that you couldn’t! It’s a website that has informed my many Lake District wild swims.

Another website on Lake District swimming that I frequent is the blog Swimming the Lakes. This lady planned to swim across all the lakes and tarns in the Lake District. Her blog posts have once again helped in my wild swimming choices.

YouTube was another invaluable resource. Just search swimming in the Lake District and you get hundreds of hits! One channel that whetted my appetite for swimming in the Lake District was Trek and Run Online. Their videos of swimming in Buttermere and Derwentwater inspired me to take a dip in both lakes myself, resulting in happy memories.

One aspect of wild swimming I have not covered is of course hypothermia. Though not a blog I followed from the beginning, Open Water Woman has this topic covered. Her detailed post is well worth a read and very insightful.

So my research determined that I could go wild swimming, but what should I wear? What equipment did I need? I did not like the idea of wearing a wet-suit so that was out of the equation. I wanted to feel the cool water lapping at my skin. So skins it was then.

I can’t explain the excitement I had when I went shopping for clothing for my first swim in 2016. I had a basic list.

  • A swimsuit
  • Goggles (which I have never worn)
  • Neoprene boots/shoes (I didn’t want to cut my feet on rocks and stones as I waded into the water)

David thought I was insane but humoured me.

DSC_0106

First swim at Derwentwater

Since my initial swims, my ‘kit’ has expanded. A simple bathing suit is ok for swimming in summer but come autumn, when temperatures drop you find your body needs extra protection.

  • Neoprene gloves are a must for colder waters. My hands burned when I swam in Derwentwater during October, enough for me to research hand protection.
  • A towel from home is just too bulky. I now have two microfiber towels from Mountain Warehouse. They are easier to carry in my rucksack when going on a hike before a swim.
  • To document my swims, David gifted me a GoPro type waterproof camera. The quality of video is excellent! I named it Wilson (of Cast Away fame) as I almost lost it on a swim in Ullswater.
  • A thermometer is a must if you want to know what temperature of water you are swimming in. I purchased a quirky child’s tortoise thermometer who I have called Terrence.
  • Since purchasing my first swimsuit. I have bought many tankini’s. I prefer the fit of shorts and top to an all in one.

And finally.

colour-guide-dryrobe-range-Small

The last piece of kit that I now own is a dryrobe! I have been after a changing robe for so long but could not justify the cost, as I only dip, not compete. For Christmas David kindly gifted me my very own dryrobe. It’s a kids advanced (as I’m a shortie), and it is spacious enough for me to get dry and changed in. I am eager to get back to swimming to try it out!

Not satisfied with just swimming in the Lake District I went in search for information on swimming in Wales. Vivienne Rickman Poole‘s blog documents her many swims in the llyns of Snowdonia. I’ve managed to do two swims in Wales in 2017, Llyn Cwellyn and Llyn Cau. I hope to add to this tally in 2018.

I’ve found many Facebook pages relating to wild swimming. Outdoor Swimming Society has one, COWS or Cumbria Open Water Swimmers is a good page for the Lake District and nearer to home #ChesterFrosties have an inspiring page too. I’m sure there will be one for your area too!

The take home message of this post is to be informed, swim within your limits, be courteous to others and enjoy the experience. For my first swim at Derwentwater, I felt apprehensive about entering the water, I took my time and slowly edged into the cool May waters. I knew I didn’t have a strong upper body so I kept to the shoreline. It’s only when you feel stronger and confident that you can swim for longer.

I hope this post has been informative? I have accumulated my knowledge over two-three years and will continue to learn. Perhaps I have inspired you to give wild swimming a go? If you do, let me know how you get on?

Thanks for reading and stay safe,

Christine x

Advertisements

Plan B!

For our most recent visit to the Lake District I had planned Wainwright walks and double lake swims. However, in reality not all plans came to fruition, but that was ok. While we were out and about in the Cumbrian hills we tweaked our plans and covered as much as we could, with the time that we had. This was no more truer than our last day in the Lakes, when instead of driving straight from our base, Hermiston Guest House to Buttermere, we lingered a while in Keswick.

Derwent Water 2 (2)

Derwent Water

Morning in Braithwaite dawned bright and crisp, a perfect autumn day. While having breakfast, we watched as clouds from the mountains drifted down to the lower valleys and lakes. We left the B&B shrouded in mist hopeful of seeing some cloud inversion over Derwent Water. Unfortunately we arrived a little too late and only captured the fierce sun burning the remaining cloud away.

Depending whether you are brave enough to face the Honister Pass or not, Buttermere is some 30-40 minutes drive from Keswick. We arrived at Buttermere around lunchtime and had difficulty in finding parking. Both National Trust car-parks were full, (due to it being a beautiful day and the Half Term holidays). Thankfully we managed to find a lay-by beside Crummock Water, though being a good 20 minute walk to the lake of Buttermere.

Plan A: I had prepared a one mile walk from Buttermere to Bleaberry Tarn via Burtness Wood, where I would take my 10th swim of the year. However we arrived at the lakeside of Buttermere around 12.30pm and with the best of the day behind us. I decided to deviate from the plan.

Plan B: To take a walk to a sheltered beach around Buttermere (eastern side), and from there embark on a swim, before lunch. I wanted to savour the sunshine as my last swim in Buttermere was cold and dreary. We passed the lone tree and as the path alongside the lake became broken with fallen trees and boggy with mud, we found a wide shingle beach with unparalleled views of Fleetwith Pike and Haystacks.

David had his lunch, while I stripped to my tankini and waded into the water. The water was warmer than Small Water the previous day. Terence clocked 12°C, but in the sunshine it felt much warmer, deceivably so.

I swam back and forth along the bank for about 20 minutes, my longest swim this year! At one point I had an audience, and another time a woman asked me what the water temperature was like! I don’t wild swim for the spectacle it creates. I do it to feel closer to nature, to the environment. Since the dawn of indoor swimming pools, wild swimming has took a step back in the nations’ psyche, but hopefully with its recent resurgence, less people will be shocked at seeing someone swimming in a lake!

buttermere swim 1 (2)

Buttermere swim

Back on land, struggling to get dry and warm, I experienced one of the worst shiver attacks I have had while wild swimming. I should have known from my Wast Water swim that being in cold water for over 15 minutes tends to affect me more, more so in autumnal temperatures! This blog post from Open Water Woman is very enlightening about the affects of cold water swimming on the body and resultant hypothermia if not adequately monitored.

Buttermere maybe my 10th and final swim of this season. If so, I have certainly ended on a high! My final swim of 2017, in one of my favourite lakes. I couldn’t have planned it any better. Sometimes plans are not meant to be followed.

Have you visited Butteremere? Been convinced to try wild swimming? Let me know your thoughts!

Thanks so much for reading,

Christine x