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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Scrambling and Swimming

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For weeks I have wanted to return to Derwentwater in the Lake District. This time to walk the path towards Catbells, overlooking the lake and then to picnic at the lakeshore. Early on Sunday, David and I headed back up the M6 to Cumbria, hoping to do just that!

The two hour drive ran without hiccup. Unlike the last time we attempted to go to the Lakes. That time they shut the M6 due to a fuel spillage and had to re-tarmac the carriageway. Thankfully not this time!

There is a limited amount of free parking by the signed Catbells path. However we passed a field that had been opened up for visitors to the area at £3 per car, for the day. I thought that was reasonable. Saying that, we managed to get a spot in the free car park!  There is also a bus that passes through on its way to Buttermere or you could walk from Keswick. There are many possibilities.

For around 1.5 hours we followed the path towards Catbells summit. The views from the path were spectacular. I wanted to do the walk just to see them! The sun shone warmly down, while fluffy clouds scudded past. There was one part of the path where we had to crawl on hands and knees to climb over a rocky spot. I don’t like climbing. I’m even worse at it than walking! There was a second more treacherous section just before the summit which curtailed any further attempt from me! Though young children and dogs happily leapt over the rock towards the top!

We headed back along a safer route towards the car to pick up supplies for our picnic by the lake.


Can I let you into a bit of a secret? I had an ulterior motive for heading back towards Derwentwater. It all started in February when David and I took a walk around Llyn Idwal in Snowdonia. I stood on the shingle beach, looking at the clear fresh water and imagined what it would be like on a warm, summers day. Of sunbathing and paddling in the lake.

The seed had been planted.

A week later saw David and I, up at the crack of dawn to visit Haweswater and Derwentwater, in the Lake District for the first time. I fell in love with Derwentwater and I wondered what it would be like to put my toe in its waters?

Later, after watching hours of YouTube videos and researching swimming in lakes/rivers in the UK, I was hooked! David thought I was mad! A week ago I purchased a swimsuit, neoprene shoes and goggles. I was all set to go swimming, but where? Though the lake can be busy with boat traffic and the shore popular with dog walkers, I chose Derwentwater to be my first!

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I was a little trepid to begin with. I worried about the temperature of the waters and wondered if I should postpone for a warmer day. However I wanted to attempt it. I had dreamed about it for weeks! I had worn my swimsuit under my clothes on the walk, so I had no real excuse not to try. The day had been pretty amazing up till then. Embarking on my first ‘wild’ swim would be the cherry on the cake (figuratively speaking)!

I didn’t enter the water gracefully. I slipped on a stone and plummeted onto my backside! The air was laced with my nervous giggling! I hadn’t been in water since I was a teenager, (a long, long time ago). I attempted the breaststroke and found that my legs and arms wouldn’t coordinate! I’d forgotten how to swim! However I gained in confidence. My long term memory kicked in and I remembered the technique. I managed to swim backwards and forwards with mayflies flying off the surface of the lake and wonderful views all around. David, who was happily dry onshore, watched on taking photographs.

The lake water was surprisingly mild for a cool day. I found it strange that there were eddies of warmer water here and there. I didn’t stray too far from the shore, my upper body isn’t that strong. I didn’t want the day to end in disaster, not on my first time!

I climbed out after 10 minutes and got dressed. I sat snuggling with David on the lakeshore, shakily cradling a hot cup of coffee. I felt buoyed by the occasion! Buttermere next!

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We ended the day with a little woodland stroll, where we heard the calls of a cuckoo, saw a carpet of bluebells and watched sheep and their lambs get fed. The whole day was wonderful. I went home thoroughly tired but energised. I am eager to go on my next walk/swim.

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Have you been swimming in a lake or river? Have any suggestions on where best to swim or of beautiful scenic walks to take?

Thanks for dropping by,

Christine x