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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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Sunday Sevens #12

I’ve begun compiling this week’s Sunday Sevens (devised by Threads and bobbins) early. It’s Thursday and I am eagerly dipping into my loaned library copy of Kate Rew’s Wild Swim. I am particularly interested in the section featuring lakes and tarns. I am looking for suggestions on where to do my next swim. My first being in Derwentwater on Sunday!

Monday saw David having a day off work. So we headed to our local park, Sefton Park to walk the family dog Riley. I think by the look on his face, Riley enjoyed himself!

This week has been National Vegetarian Week, which has been all about ‘celebrating the stories and the traditions behind the food we eat.’ David joked that it is vegetarian week in our house all of the time! Of the dishes I have made this week, this Italian flavoured Quiona and Bean Soup was healthy and surprisingly filling.

Ingredients (serves 2):

  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 can of beans, rinsed, I used Pinto, but you can use any
  • 1/2 white onion, chopped
  • 1/2 pepper, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped,
  • 1 chilli, chopped
  • 1 tbsp oregano, fresh, chopped
  • 1 can of tomatoes and juice
  • 500 ml of vegetable stock (I used one stock cube)
  • 50g of quinoa
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Heat oil in a medium saucepan, over medium heat. Add the onions, pepper and chilli and sauté until barely tender, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the beans and garlic and stir for 2 minutes.
  3. Stir in the tomatoes and their juices, and vegetable stock.
  4. Add the quinoa, oregano and bay leaf. Cover and simmer until quinoa is cooked, 12 to 15 minutes.
  5. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove bay leaf and serve.

Earlier in the week mum showed me the ‘wild’ flowers that had seeded themselves in the alleyway behind our houses. Among them was a yellow poppy, which I later researched and found out was a Welsh Poppy. Also the yarden seems to be blooming, even if the weather has been grimy this week. Everything has suddenly become green and lush. The maris bard potatoes are huge and I’ve discovered that the clematis David’s mum had given us, has flowered!

This Saturday has been a busy one! After the weekly shop, David and I headed to Harefield Water Gardens, a family run business in Widnes. We visited in a ‘monsoon!’ At least we tested out our new waterproof coats! Harefield Water Gardens have a farm shop and cafe where you can look out towards their herd of alpacas. Unfortunately they were all huddled together by their barn when we visited. We manged to purchase some pond plants and then headed towards Dobbies to get some alpines.

In the past week, we (or should I more truthfully say David), have been constructing a small pond in an area of the yarden that had once been a rockery but the plants had all died and was looking a bit sorry for itself. I suggested creating a small pond. We followed the tips on the RSPB site, used a washing up bowl and placed soil around it. We are both proud of the new instillation and hope that the plants survive and maybe one day small insects will make it their home. What do you think?

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It looks like Sunday is going to be a lazy, rainy kind of day. I’m watching David play on his PS4 while planning the evenings dinner and dreaming of warmer, sunnier weather!

I hope you have a good week ahead,

Christine x