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A cold water swimmer in the lake enjoying a swim

Where Can I Swim? Some Open Water Swimming Inspiration

19 May 2021 by Gemma Hellawell

Swimming in open water has been my tonic this year. In a time when so much has been taken away from us, the freedom of being in the water has felt more precious than ever. The water calms me, re-sets me and I emerge from the water with a clear mind and a more peaceful heart.

As lockdown eases you may be searching for a new swimming spot. Here are my five favourite swims to inspire your next swimming adventure:

  1. Ellingham Lake – This beautiful gem is located in the New Forest. Tucked away up a dirt track and only available for swimming early mornings, it is worth every minute of sacrificed sleep to experience. Surrounded by beautiful greenery, with water lilies blooming in the summer months, the water is clear and fresh. It really is an exceptional place to swim.

Booking essential via the NOWCA Actio app – www.nowca.org 

  1. The River Wye – There are so many spots on this beautiful river to enjoy and so many ways to enjoy it. My favourite memories include canoeing from Glasbury to Preston-on-Wye over two days, spending time in and out of the water as we went. And enjoying a swoosh in a stretch of the river 10 minutes walk from Hay-on-Wye on a hot summer’s day with friends. If you were after a more challenging swim here, you could try The Wild Wye Swim held in September each year - www.wildwyeswim.org.uk 
  2. Port Gaverne – The Cornish coastline offers many opportunities for outstanding swims. Of the many places I have swum, Port Gaverne in North Cornwall remains one of my favourites. A small fishing port, next to the ever-popular Port Isaac, it offers a variety of swims. When the tide is in you can dip or swim in the sheltered cove or head out towards the sea stacks for more of an adventure. The swim that stands out for me though, is swimming from Port Gaverne to Port Isaac around the headland. There is nothing quite like seeing a familiar coastline from the perspective of the sea as it crashes against the headland rocks.

Guided swims available with www.cornishrocktors.com

  1. Loch an Eilein – This beautiful loch is located in the Rothiemurchus Forest in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park. If the natural beauty wasn’t enough, this swim will also take you to a ruined castle that can only be reached from the water. Don’t be surprised when you put your face in the water to find it’s black. The peat in the local soil makes this beautifully fresh water also very dark!
  2. The River Dart – I had the joy of swimming a 10km stretch of this tidal river from Totnes to Dittisham when I took part in the Outdoor Swimming Society’s Dart 10k. It is a stunning stretch of river, which made me want to swap my usual head-down front crawl for a slow head-up breast-stroke, just to enjoy the breathtaking scenery. The Outdoor Swimming Society events are well organised and truly are a celebration of swimming - www.outdoorswimmingsociety.com/dart-10k 

For help to find your perfect swim try the Outdoor Swimming Society, local Facebook swimming groups, the NOWCA website or their Actio app.

Remember that swimming in open water can be dangerous. Only swim where permitted, swim with others, don’t swim too long, get out before you get cold and know the water that you are swimming in; tides, rip tides and currents can all take you by surprise.

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