by Jade Henley
How do you have a wild night out when you don’t particularly like camping? You go for a wild night swim instead!
Ok, it wasn’t technically ‘night’ because it’s summer, but the sun was lazily sinking behind the treeline as I arrived at Hatchmere Lake for my swim, a little later than planned thanks to Northern Rail. Hatchmere is in the beautiful Delamere forest, so when you swim you really do feel wild!
The last of the day visitors were leaving the water as I arrived and started to unpack my kit bag in the golden glow of the evening sun. I swim outdoors a lot so I’d travelled in my swimming costume under my clothes, but I still needed to partake in an essential pre-swim activity - ‘faffing’. There’s a lot less faffing in summer than there is before a winter swim, but locating ear plugs, goggles, swim cap, camera and blowing up my tow float took some valuable minutes of swim time.
I followed a couple of fellow swimmers into the water. Thanks to the heatwave, the water was so warm it was bath-like - a welcome change to temperatures during my winter swims! I didn’t mess about in the shallows for too long as the warm water had attracted other non-human visitors: midges and mosquitos.
I headed off towards the far side of the lake, where posts mark the swimming area. Hatchmere has an interesting history for swimmers. When the Wildlife Trust bought the lake in the late nineties, the access point for swimmers was fenced off. A campaign group, Friends of Hatchmere, eventually convinced the Trust to allow access, and this campaign spurred on the River and Lake Swimming Association which promotes open water swimming. The lake is a nature reserve, and aside from biting insects and leaches, it’s apparently home to fish like pike, beam and tench - although I have never seen a fish while swimming here! There must be quite a few, as the fishing jetties around the edge of the lake are often occupied by anglers.
As I crossed the lake, I was soon snapping photos of the light glistening on the water, the last of the sun as it was sinking from the sky, and of course a few selfies!
I met the swimmers who’d got in the water before me. They were locals but it was their first time swimming at Hatchmere. We had a chat, sharing our love of the outdoors, swimming, and admiring the view - all while treading water in the middle of a lake with the sun setting around us. Bliss!
Before I knew it, my time was up and I needed to head out of the water to catch my train home. I had time for a quick cup of water in my Wild Night Out mug, and one last chance to appreciate this beautiful swimming spot. While it might not have been strictly ‘night’, I was definitely out in the wild!
(Unfortunately, my camera came detached on a swim the next day, and now rests at the bottom of a lake, so I don't have any pictures from in the water. I like to imagine the catfish that inhabit Sale Water Park are taking some great selfies with it).
You can follow Jade’s wild swimming exploits on Instagram @the_manchester_mermaid.
WILD NIGHT OUT: GET INVOLVED
There are so many ways you can go wild at night. Anyone and everyone can take this opportunity to make some amazing memories to treasure forever. To get your imagination going, we’ve gathered together some ideas, stories, and how-to guides to help you design the very best Wild Night Out for you.
Everyone needs a Wild Night Out!