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Where to Wild Swim Near Me?

A Beginner’s Guide…

By Jenny Schippers – 4th March 2021
Where to Wild Swim Near Me?

Where to Wild Swim Near Me?

A Beginner’s Guide…

 

 

Wild Swimming: The practice or activity of swimming for pleasure in natural waters, typically rivers and lakes.

 

The heady pursuit of outdoor swimming or ‘wild swimming’, to use a recently coined phrase, is essentially the age-old pursuit of swimming outdoors in lakes, rivers, ponds, and oceans. Research carried out pre-pandemic (2018) by Swim England found that 7.5 million people swim in outdoor pools and open water. Over the last twelve months, this ancient pastime has been thrust into people’s consciousness thanks in part to a growing sub-culture of ‘trendsetters’ that are highlighting the benefits of wild swimming as a way of boosting the immune system, staying fit and relieving stress.

Often featuring dramatic and breathtaking backdrops, with our very own Girl About the Lake District Ali, being an excellent example of this. It is completely juxtaposed against the ‘new normal’ for the majority, which entails being stuck at home attempting to work from a kitchen table whilst juggling childcare, and a severe lack of holidays on the horizon. To also throw into the mix indoor swimming pools, gyms and sports being currently off the cards, it has led many to consider the idea of wild swimming for exercise purposes with the added benefit of washing away the strains of lockdown life.

So, whilst it may seem tempting at times to exit the house at break-neck speed and jump in your nearest pond or river; there are several essential matters to address before the activity of wild swimming can commence. These include the legal formalities of wild swimming, the safety precautions that must be taken, the equipment that should be bought and the information that needs to be read. All this before even asking the most important question, “where to wild swim near me?”

Is Wild Swimming Legal?

 

Wild swimming is not just allowed everywhere, it is important to research your wild swimming spots. When asking the question, where to wild swim near me, the Wild Swimming website is invaluable and you can search for local swim spots near you that are cleared for wild swimming. The Right to Roam Law is an ancient custom that categorises most UK lakes and rivers as public places however, you need to consider how you are accessing these swim spots and the logistics of parking legally if required, ideally visit somewhere with a designated car park.

It is therefore imperative that you only access wild-swim sites using public rights of way, never cross through or onto private land and be respectful of nearby residents whilst also considering any specific lockdown or travel restrictions that may still be in place. The responsibility of any wild swimmer is to leave a swim site cleaner than you find it, this involves taking home any rubbish you may find and generally having a love for the place you are visiting.

 

Staying Safe whilst Wild Swimming

 

Staying safe whilst wild swimming is the most important point to consider and it essentially comes down to being prepared. Although there always remains a risk to outdoor swimming, you can at least mitigate against this as much as possible by following these simple rules:

 

  • Start by researching your outdoor swimming location; only swim where others have already done so, nothing too deep to begin with and consider swimming with a group (there are plenty of local groups on Facebook and Twitter). Ensure you always swim with one other person, preferably somebody with much more experience than yourself.
  • If you are new to the world of outdoor swimming, then it is best to begin during the warmer Summer months when the water temperature is more bearable, although caution still needs to be taken. This article by The Outdoor Swim Society is a great read listing the Top 10 Tips for Safe Summer Swimming.
  • Never swim in urban rivers and canals due to pollution levels, avoid contact with green or blue algae and cover open sores and cuts before swimming.
  • If swimming in tidal or fast flowing rivers and open sea; be aware of tide times, currents, and the depth of the water.
  • It is essential to have a pre-prepared exit route as well as an escape plan if things go wrong. Make sure you talk it through with whoever you are swimming with to ensure you are both aware of the plan before entering the water.
  • Finally, consider the weather conditions, water temperature, any loose rocks, branches, or underwater weeds before entering the water. Neoprene boots or swim socks are great to wear as a way of protecting your feet from the lake or river floor.

 

Wild Swimming Kit & Equipment

 

Although the beauty for wild swimming, during the warmer Summer months, is the fact that you need minimal kit, it is still worth considering a few important pieces before entering the world of wild swimming.

 

  • Neoprene will keep you warmer for longer so look out for this when considering a wetsuit or swimming costume.
  • Invest in brightly coloured neoprene swim hat (so you are spotted easily), gloves, and boots; essential for swimming in cooler water and they will help to increase your swim time.
  • A thermometer is an essential; cold water shock can still occur during Summer months (when the water temperature is below 15 degrees) so always enter the water slowly and control breathing before beginning to swim. Never dive or jump in headfirst.
  • Getting warm and dry very quickly after wild swimming is key so invest in a thick change robe, loose layers, and a warm hat. Also have the warm drinks and snacks handy to refuel!
  • A tow float is highly recommended, particularly if you are venturing out of your depth or into busier swim spots (including those with power boats). This doubles as a rescue float and a way of others spotting you whilst out swimming.

 

This brilliant article from Simply Swim contains a comprehensive list of the Top 10 Essentials for open water swimming

A point to remember; although all the above kit will keep you warmer for longer whilst swimming, it will not essentially prevent the likes of cold water shock and hypothermia, so swim with precaution and read this fantastic guide to cold water swimming before you do.

 

Where to Wild Swim Near Me?

 

So you are finally ready and prepared but before heading off into the wilderness, you need to consider where you can safely wild swim near you. Your first port of call needs to be the Wild Swim Map which is essentially a community map with swim areas, open water swim events, places to camp close to open water alongside honest reviews from fellow swimmers.

You could also consider cross-referencing this search with The Outdoor Swimming Society and their comprehensive list of outdoor swimming groups in the UK. For those in the North West, #ChesterFrosties is a great place to start; this local community outdoor swim group is based in Chester and swims in various spots throughout Cheshire and North Wales.

 

Wild Swim Spots for Beginners in Cheshire

 

If you are new to the world of outdoor swimming, then it is advised that you first begin by visiting a regulated swim spot to build up your confidence in the water whilst being under safe instruction the entire time.

There are a few ways to do this, you can either join an outdoor swim school such as USwim or a private swim club where you will gain valuable experience of outdoor swimming with an instructor, as well as meeting like-minded individuals.

 

Manley Mere – Open Saturday and Sunday (and midweek during Summer) to NOWCA Members for 250/500/750m swimming in designated and safe swim lanes. Reopening 3rd April 2021. There is also an aquapark, water sports hire and fishing.

Alderford Lake – Open daily (currently closed due to restrictions), this 14 acre lake allows wild-swimming to all year-round. There is also a calendar of events including an aquapark, kayak and paddleboard hire.

Wildshore Delamere – Pre-booked wild swim sessions available for all ages (currently closed due to restrictions), with 400m and 750m swim loops suitable for all with a safety kayak/SUP in attendance always. There is also an aquapark, Aqua Chimp (World’s first floating rope course), wakeboarding and water sports available.

Boundary Water ParkUSwim operate twice-weekly swim sessions at Boundary Water Park making it an excellent place for wild swim beginners. This shallow lake is a popular swim spot, but it is private so booking onto the USwim course is essential.

 

What is it Like to Wild Swim?

 

Claire Patterson (@thevanfam4) had her first wild swim in Llyn Gwynant, Snowdonia in June 2019 after being inspired by other members of the Instagram #vanlife community.

“I have always loved swimming but had a massive fear of what might be lurking beneath the surface. Yet I really wanted to push outside of my comfort zone and see what I was capable of. I started attending weekly supervised sessions with USwim at Boundary Waterpark and slowly but surely overcame the panic about the weedy lake bottom!

I soon became addicted to the feeling of being literally immersed in nature, and began seeking out beautiful lake, river, and sea swim spots whilst on our travels around the UK in our campervan. During the pandemic I have had to look elsewhere for my cold water fix as it brings so many physical and mental benefits to me. I have been busy scouting out local swim and dipping spots with a few close friends. We have continued right through the winter months.

I never dreamed I would be brave or silly enough to swim in a frozen lake!”

 

Wild Swimming Holidays

 

If the idea of a wild swimming holiday appeals, then there are several hotels and retreats in the North West region that can accommodate this popular holiday pastime.

 

Combermere Abbey – Situated in South Cheshire close to Whitchurch, Combermere Abbey offers guests staying in their 5* holiday cottages the chance to swim in the private mere. Wild swimming is welcomed during the warmer months, March to October (during designated swimming times) whereby Combermere Abbey’s guests are allowed the rare opportunity to swim from their doorstep (T&Cs apply and must be accompanied by a swim buddy).

Armathwaite Hall, Lake District – Situated on Bassenthwaite Lake near Keswick, this elegant country hotel allows guests the opportunity to book onto their Wild Swim Half Day Package which includes a short introduction to open water swimming, wetsuit hire and an accompanied swim with your very own swim instructor. After an initial introduction in Bassenthwaite Lake and dependant on ability, you then have the opportunity for a swim in a ‘secret’ location a short drive from the hotel.

Another Place, Lake District – Situated on Ullswater in the Lake District, the incredible and utterly unique Another Place Hotel offers its guests the opportunity to swim with local instructor Colin Hill. These pre-booked sessions are suitable for all ages and abilities and alongside these, there is the chance to swim without instruction using the hotel’s wetsuit and float hire whilst following suggested swim times and guidelines.

Wild Soul Swim – The sister company of the environmental organisation doing wonderful things We Swim Wild;  Wild Soul Swim offers the wild swim retreats, wild swim sessions in Snowdonia, wild sailing trips and swim wild adventures (coming soon). If you are passionate about wild swimming and looking for a way to experience this pursuit in a unique and devoted way, Wild Swim Soul maybe for you.

And finally, if you have an adventure booked in the Lake District National Park this Summer or are lucky enough to live there then take a read of Ali’s (Girl About Lake District) latest wild swim blog featuring 5 Amazing Swim Spots in the Lake District.

 

Fancy Reading More?

 

For more Cheshire adventures and UK staycation inspiration, head to the Girl About Cheshire blog to continue reading. You can also follow me on Instagram @girlabout.cheshire and by following the hashtag #MakingMemoriesInCheshire for our Cheshire community. Do not forget to tag me in your wild swim adventures!

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