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Inside The Outdoors

Wild Swimming for Beginners

19.07.2016 | Great British Summer

Wild swimming is basically leisure swimming in natural waters. These are usually lakes and rivers but the swimming in the ocean is also considered to be wild swimming though it is usually a bit more intense than making a splash on a day at the beach.

Wild swimming is growing in popularity. The Outdoor Swimming Society has seen a massive growth in numbers and with summer being here it’s time to take advantage of what the UK has to offer. Did you know that in Snowdonia alone there are 100 lakes? One of these is a place called Golwern Quarry, nicknamed The Blue Pool – with an inviting name like that it’s practically screaming to be swum in. You can understand why more people are getting into wild swimming.

However, at least for the most part, you can’t just swim anywhere in the UK – in Scotland the rules are a little different, but it’s best to double check. Some lakes and rivers are private property, but many aren’t so do your research ahead of time, whether that’s by clicking a mouse or flicking through a good old fashioned textbook.

Why I love wild swimming

There are some great wild swimming areas in the South West, where I grew up. One I know well Claverton Weir, near Bath. You can drive to this location, but I highly recommend riding along the Bristol to Bath cycle path because it’s so rewarding to take a dip at the end.

Wild swimming in the rain is breathtakingly beautiful, especially when you’re surrounded by a forest, the noise of the rain drops hitting the water echoing through you and the silence below the surface.

Once, on a trip abroad with friends, we swam at night. It was a clear night sky full of stars which reflected on the surface of the lake. The water was so still and calming, making us feel like we were floating through space on a voyage to tranquillity. It’s one memory forever engraved in me.

Your wild swimming adventure can take place in so many different settings, from mountain ranges and forests, to open plains and the sea, and even cities. London, for example, has a swimming pool which uses hyper-oxygenating plants instead of chemicals to purify its water.  As a result, it’s all natural, very fresh and, of course, rather cold. Hopefully we’ll see more of these around the country soon.

There is solitude, freedom and soul searching to be found in wild swimming, especially when it’s just you and a friend or three swimming in a lake surrounded by nature after a hike. You just don’t get that experience from man-made pools.


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Tops Tips & SafetyWild Swimming Checklist

Knowing all the facts about where you are going to take a plunge is very important. Remember that you are swimming at your own risk, but there are precautions you can take to prevent any accidents.

  • How deep is the water? Always check before letting someone jump in.
  • Check the temperature of the water. If you just jump into a body of water you could suffer from cold shock which can lead to hyperventilating due to your body not acclimatising. Before entering the water, sit on a ledge or bank and dangle your legs in, then splash a little on your arms. This should help to prepare your body for the cold, and let you know if you need a wetsuit or not. Remember, too, that the temperature of water can vary throughout the day and according to location.
  • It is always a good idea to go wild swimming with another person for safety, just in case a problem should occur. Of course, the more the merrier, so why not go with a group of friends to boost that fun summer feeling?
  • Think about where you’re going to enter the water, and be sure that you can exit again easily.
  • Wear aqua shoes to protect your feet from sharp rocks, and give you more grip.
  • Invest in a wetsuit to protect you from particularly cold waters.