Location: Most people have a suitable river, lake or waterfall within about 20 miles
Transport: Train, bike, car, walk
1. bathing costume (optional)
2. towel (best to vary a small sarong as it is lighter and dries quicker. If no towel, wipe the water off with your hand, then sacrifice one item of clothing to dry off)
3. water shoes or old trainers
4. small plastic bag to take wet costumes home in
5. P20 suntan lotion (apply once in the morning and it remains waterproof all day)
6. rubber ring for fun or shooting rapids!
What to do
There’s nothing inherently dangerous about wild swimming, but cold water does reduce your swimming ability, at least until you get used to it. So stay close to the shore and increase your range slowly. The water will be cold, so arrive hot, so hot that you can’t wait to strip off and plunge in. Plan a good hearty walk to get you there, and put on lots of warm clothes before you arrive. Once you’re in the water it takes a few minutes before the cold feeling goes away, so persevere and you’ll feel great. In general, the more you swim in cold water the less you will feel the cold and the greater the health benefits. This called ‘cold adaptation’. Don’t stay in so long that you start to shiver, though, and definitely get out and warm up after 20 minutes. Wetsuits can be a great help and allow you to stay immersed indefinitely. Put on warm clothes immediately after a swim and combine this with something active like walking up a hill or star jumps.
Access and the law
You will find plenty of places where there are No Swimming signs and notices, yet people regularly swim and always have. The signs are to limit land owners’ liability, in case someone has an accident and tries to sue.
Water quality constantly varies, reducing during droughts or after flooding.
If you come across a magical pool on a walk it’s quite possible to swim even without any kit. Wear your undies or go naked if it is secluded. If you have no towel wipe most of the water off with your hands then sacrifice one item of clothing to dry yourself or travel with a small, light cotton sarong.
Never jump into water you have not thoroughly checked for depth and obstructions.
Avoid strong currents, such as those found under large waterfalls, rapids or weirs: they can drag you under.
Never swim alone, and keep watch on weak swimmers
Know your limits and stay close to the shoreline. Cold water will decrease your swimming range and can lead to cold cramps. People with a heart condition should avoid rapid entry into cold water.
Always make sure you know how you will get out before you get in.
Wear footwear if you can.
Watch out for boats on any navigable river. Wear a coloured swim hat so you can be seen.
Avoid direct contact with blue-green algae and be wary of water quality in lowland areas during droughts and heavy rain. Cover cuts with plasters if worried, and if you develop flu-like symptoms tell your doctor you have been wild swimming.