“I’m at my most calm when I’m by the sea. It’s like meditation or mindfulness for me, I don’t have to think, I’m totally at peace. I guess it’s the endorphins as well as the head space. And just being in nature is good for the soul. It’s so calming.”
While wild swimming’s resurgence is unquestionably a good thing, it’s a very different proposition to swimming in a pool. Conditions can often change, with tides turning, currents moving quickly and the weather often refusing to play ball. Like all outdoor activities, there are dangers to be aware of. But these can be overcome by checking maps, reading up on well-known swimming spots and, crucially, opting against a swim if you feel uncomfortable in any way. In that way, wild swimming offers an important lesson about being less macho and more respectful of the situation, whether it’s churning waves or a fast- flowing stream.
The swimming itself feels different, too. With no lanes to follow it can be hard to swim in a straight line when doing front crawl, but the ability to stretch out your arms and legs to their fullest makes it truly magical. All abilities can give it a try, although less confident swimmers should always go with someone who knows what they’re doing. And that’s no problem either; the social side of wild swimming is a brilliant boost for mental wellbeing. The water might be cold, but when it makes you feel this good, there’s every reason to take the plunge.
The three ponds on London’s Hampstead Heath are the ideal place to give wild swimming a go. The mixed pond opens from May until September and is great for first-timers.
LLYN CWM BYCHAN, WALES
Llyn Cwm Bychan is the ultimate Welsh lake. With shallow water in its eastern reaches, its banks are perfect for lying down and drying off on a sunny day.
DOSTHILL QUARRY, STAFFORDSHIRE
This spring–fed lake’s crystal clear waters are rich in magnesium, known for its therapeutic benefi ts. A handy 400-metre route around its perimeter makes for a gorgeous swim.
HELL BAY, BRYHER, ISLES OF SCILLY
Twenty-fi ve miles off the coast of Cornwall, tiny Bryher is surrounded by pristine, white sandy beaches that slip away into icy water full of swaying seaweed forests.
LOCH TARBERT, JURA, SCOTLAND
Scotland is blessed with some truly wild swimming holes. This loch, which almost cuts the island of Jura in two, is remote and surrounded by steep– sided hills.