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

Dry January – Finale.

February is finally here and I have been successful in my first Dry January!

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I have managed to raise a total of £36 towards Alcohol Concern. You can still donate to my Just Giving page.

In some ways it’s been a long month, but the second half has simply flown by! At the beginning of January I joined a closed Facebook group whose members shared their life stories and journey’s. Many have been inspiring! I think as the month fades into February, many are feeling a little emotional at the achievement. It may seem insignificant to some, to not drink alcohol for a month, but for others, its a monumental life change.

Many people in the Dry January group and community page had commented on the effects of abstinence, of losing weight and feeling more energetic to having better relations with family and clearer skin. I have not had any noticeable changes, whether that is a good thing or not, I don’t know? Though I have continued to maintain my fitness regime and healthy eating regardless of drinking alcohol or not. I can see myself doing all this again next January!

During the month, I have learned that alcohol not only effects the liver, but also has a hand in raising cholesterol and glucose levels in the blood. Though I don’t intend to stop drinking entirely. I will limit the amount I consume from now on!

But today I will crack open a bottle of JP Chenet Colombard Sauvignon and raise a toast to my success!

Cheers!

Dry January – Week Four!

The end is in sight!

I must have been out of my mind when I decided to do Dry January 2015.

January is notoriously the most depressing month of the year. During this month, I have had to fight stress and depression. I then hurt my back and was out for a few days last week and then this Monday I had a death in the family to contend with.

Dee

Dee

I had to say farewell to one of our oldest cats. Dee! She had been with us since 1996 and looked fantastic for her age. Recently Mum had noticed that Dee was having trouble with her balance. I told her to monitor it but by Monday things had gone progressively worse, so much so that Dee could hardly stand up!

Mum and I took her to the vets. We waited ages to be seen in a reception area that was filled with other cat patients. Dee was very vocal and cried to be let out, and when another cat started crying the room was filled with meows!

We were introduced to a kind vet called Sarah, who on seeing Dee (trying to get out of the carry case) said, ‘oh little one, something has happened in your brain!’ We coaxed Dee out of the carrier and she stumbled around the table, with her head constantly shaking and a vacant look to her eyes. The vet subsequently said that Dee could have had a bleed or a tumour  in her brain which explained the loss of motor control. They at present don’t treat brain diseases in animals and with Dee’s age, it was ultimately humane to put her to sleep.

With many of my cats in their twilight years, this ‘last journey’ is becoming more frequent. Mum and I stayed with Dee as we said our goodbyes. The vet informed us that Dee probably didn’t know what was happening. I held Dee in my arms as the vet administered the drug and she quickly drifted away. The vet said that she had given Dee a dose of 500mg but she had gone by 200mg, she was that poorly!

It’s come as a shock actually. Dee was the most healthy looking out of the four that lived with Mum. It has to be a blessing that it was a short illness.

Back to Dry January and there is only three days left! I may have moaned and groaned my way through it, but I was up for the challenge! I knew I had the willpower to go without alcohol for a whole month, but I wanted other people to see that I could achieve this too! You can still donate to my Just Giving page.

Here’s to February and that long awaited glass of wine! 😀

Christine x

Dry January – Week Three!

Week three of Dry January has been a real struggle emotionally and physically.

On Sunday I bent down to pick up a toy of Artie’s and I ended up on my knees screaming in agony! I must have pulled a muscle or put strain on my vertebrae as it’s taken days to get better. It is still not fully healed, every now and then I twist awkwardly or I forget my back is weaker and it twinges.

I had to call work on Monday as I could hardly move without pain shooting around my hips. Luckily my boss and agency were understanding and I took two days off!

With not just my back to contend with, I have also been fending off the ‘black dog.’ All I did this weekend was cry! Poor David, he didn’t know what to do with me! During this time I have not thought about having a drink. I think my drinking was more due to habit rather than actual need! I will not go completely dry once January is over, but I will watch my intake. I have downloaded an app for my phone (AlcoDroid) to check on the units ingested per week.

I have already marked out the wine of choice for the 1st of February (which is a Sunday so moderation will be key). It will hopefully be JP Chenet’s Colombard Sauvignon. I can almost smell the pineapple notes! 😀

You can still sponsor me at my Just Giving page for Alcohol Concern. Or you can donate using your mobile. Text to 70070 with the message, JGAC and the £ amount. i.e. JGAC £5 to 70070. Thank you!

I found that keeping active was key to getting over the injured back. So on Tuesday I arranged a coffee morning with Mum at the Liverpool Anglican Cathedral. I went to see the World War One commemoration statue, All Together Now by Andy Edwards and also spent a nice two hours walking around the cathedral and its chapels.

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Here’s to the last ten days of Dry January 2015!

Dry January – Week Two.

It’s now the 15th day of Dry January, and I have not touched a drop of alcohol in that time. I have also had two very generous donations to my Alcohol Concern fundraising page and I am most thankful!10891791_424673811019833_5642098395591196061_nThis past week has been rather difficult. Not because I have needed a drink, (although on Friday I was thinking, ‘it would be nice to have a glass of wine to wind down into the weekend’), but because my depression has reared it’s ugly head again. I hate January/February (as do most)! My life always seems so much bleaker in the darker months of winter. I am really looking forward to March/April and the warmer months so I can enjoy the sun/warmth and my garden again!

There are some new signs of life sprouting in the garden at present. The bulbs I planted in September are now poking through the soil. Come March-May I will find out if they are Snow Drops or Bluebells! My Tulips are also growing, so hopefully soon my garden will be awash with colour again! My Hellebore or Christmas Rose has lots of buds on it but the flower heads seem too heavy for the stems so all are bowing down to the ground!

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Trying to overcome the negative thoughts, I keep reminding myself that I do have lots to look forward to in 2015! I have booked to see The Theory of Everything at the Liverpool Philharmonic as we had such a nice time on Monday watching The Imitation Game, we even had tickets for one of the boxes! The Philharmonic has an organist, Dave Nicholas who plays before the film and as the only working Walturdaw cinema screen in the world comes up from beneath the stage. It is quite a sight!

Film at the Philharmonic hall

Film at the Philharmonic hall

I have also booked for the Valentine’s day concert, Mahler’s 2nd in April and A Mid Summer Night’s Dream at the Everyman! During the summer, I also hope to have a day out to Birmingham to see the Big Hoot, visit Norwich to see Go Go Dragons, and Bristol to see Shaun in the City! Whether these day/nights away will come to fruition time will tell, but they are some events to look ahead too!

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So I am trying to shift my depression, look ahead with optimism and value what I have in my life.

Here’s to the next dry week!

Dry January – Week One.

It’s been the first full week of Dry January and one that I have managed to get through without much of a hiccup.

It has also been my first full week back in work. On Monday while sat on the bus on my long journey home, my thoughts did slip to the prospect of a nice glass of wine after dinner. But then my second thought was, ‘no, you can’t have wine, you are doing Dry January!‘ So that was that!

Instead of drinking the odd glass of wine after meals, or sipping a measure of brandy. I have been consuming fresh fruit juices and Shloer. I particularly like their Berry Punch and White Grape.

Along with looking after my liver and feeling much more educated in the effects of alcohol on all aspects of the body, I too am registered with Alcohol Concern as a fundraiser. Though at present no one has sponsored me. (Insert sad face here!)

Both Wednesday and Thursday I have been tired. Travelling three hours a day just to do work for three and a half hours is very tiring! My mind is also exhausted and add to the fact that I am feeling the effects of PMS, no wonder I have been feeling rather anxious! However tomorrow is Friday (yippie!) and I hope the working week will end on a positive note.

Today after feeling tearful on the bus home, I called forth the cheerful support of my Mum and my brother (both live next door to me!) We had a nice coffee and chat before David (my partner) came home to share in the lots of cuddles from our cat, Artie.

In reality I have very little to complain about.

Here’s to the next dry week!

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