The term “Wild Swimming” covers so many different terms of getting wet, and most of us in some form have given it a go messing around on the beach or on the local river as a kid. But recently wild swimming has been rejuvenated with a string of really useful books and guides, getting people of all ages back in to the water. Not one for missing out on the chance to go for a dip, I popped down to my local river.
With over 7000 miles of coastline and thousands of miles of inland waterways in the UK, there is always a wild swimming spot within a short drive from where you live.
So why do so many people avoid a wild swim? Most are unsure whats under the surface, what fish might grab them, what leaches might stick on to them. The simple truth is the 99% of the fish make a quick exit as soon as you get anywhere near them, and the other 1%, or minnows, will nibble at your feet if gently lowered in to their shoal, giving you a free foot clean that you used to pay good money for in most shopping centres a few years back.
Trees, weed and currents are also top of the worries, and rightly so, but with a bit of local knowledge and some common sense you can swim quite safely. A great place for advice is the Wild Swimming website. Lots a helpful information, including a link to the books and guides for the UK.
Back to the river Avon and I decided to pick a stormy, muggy day in June for my first swim in a while. I chose Saltford just between Bristol and Bath, and a popular launching spot for all kinds of watersports, including wild swimmers. The water here is deep with fairly easy get ins, and with water levels low and the flow slow, perfect for a swim.
Stripped down to just a pair of shorts I plunged in to the green waters of the Avon, which at first felt a lot fresher than I thought they would, but I soon acclimatised.
I swim breast stroke in rivers, not just so I can see what direction I am heading in, but the world looks very surreal from water level, and the wildlife somewhat ignores you, so you can sometimes get a unique view of something you see every day and take for granted. Swimming under a huge tree, whist doing backstroke is also a favorite.
Kids love water too and so it wasn’t very long in to my swim that my 4 1/2 year old son, wearing a buoyancy aid, came swimming out from the bank towards me, a little over excited, but loving it. For me it’s so important to give children confidence in water whilst also educating them on the dangers too.
It was also a lovely way to spend some time with my son!
I always feel really refreshed after being in water outdoors, it wakes you up, invigorates you and set you back on course. Maybe even a health benefit! Try it you might be surprised!