Wild swimming involves swimming for pleasure in natural waters, typically rivers and lakes. It’s an effective way for capable and comfortable swimmers to step out the comfort zones of swimming pools and embark on a more exhilarating challenge.
Wild swimming has become an extremely popular phenomenon across the UK in recent years, with tens of thousands of people partaking in it.
One keen local wild swimmer took on an extreme challenge. In early September, Nicola Guise, a former teacher at Oundle School, completed a four mile wild swim around Brownsea Island, Dorset, to raise money for the Kenyan charity, International Needs.
In the run-up to the swim Mrs Guise said: ‘I have rediscovered my love of swimming since meeting a fabulous group of wild swimmers who inspired me to take on this challenge. Swimming through the winter has been important to acclimatise for the Brownsea Swim! It is the length of time in cold water that I am most concerned about, although the event distance will also be my longest swim yet! Fingers crossed that this good weather holds.’
Mrs Guise began her training for the physically gruelling challenge over a year ago by swimming in the River Nene at the bottom of her garden in Wadenhoe. The river has an average temperature of 65-68 °F in the summer. She even continued her training with a local group over the winter.
On the day, Mrs Guise battled through the choppy conditions of the open sea in water temperatures of approximately 60.1 °F without even a wetsuit to complete the Brownsea Swim in under three hours.
Andrew Mansergh, from Oundle is another avid wild water swimmer. He swims all year round, often with his young children and dog. This is an example of how you can bond with family members doing healthy activities which improve the fitness and wellbeing of everyone involved.
Mr Mansergh said: ‘My girls swim in Tansor quite frequently in the summer, I don’t take them in the winter. This year they swam from Cotterstock to Tansor, about a mile down the river. One of them is 8 and the other 10 so I guess that’s relatively unusual. My dog comes with me and she loves swimming.
‘I run with my dog in the morning in a loop round the country park and across the Nene, and then there’s a bridge that I climb off and swim under.’
As incredible as the prospect of a cold winter swim might seem to most people, Mr Mansergh finds it refreshing and invigorating. He said it is nice to start the day with a challenge, particularly in the winter, and he says, it helps clear his mind.
And Mrs Guise and Mr Mansergh are not alone. Ten years ago the Outdoor Swimming Society was established to ‘provide inspiration, connection and community’, and on a practical level, information about places to go swimming and events, as well as swimming safety advice.
The crowd-sourced map wildswim.com provides lots of information about good places to swim across the country.
Locally, the River Nene provides a popular swim. Mr Mansergh said: ‘I know of a group that swim up in Tansor all year round.’