Despite the freezing temperatures in winter, many people like the idea of wild swimming. But if you prefer to keep your feet on the ground, read wild swimming walk books for Cornwall, Devon or London (by the famed wild swimmers of Hampstead). These books help you find walks with a dip – with waterfalls, secret lakes, river meadows and secret beaches.
So what is wild swimming all about? It’s about swimming in the open water, rather than a chlorine-soaked swimming pool. Obviously there are a few safety issues here, so only do this if you’re a strong swimmer, and choose safe spaces with low currents, and let people know where you are. Wild Swimming has full info and The Outdoor Swimming Society lists England’s outdoor lidos (many are in London in Bristol). One was rescued by the community, who invite people for a freezing cold morning swim, followed by homemade cake. Only in England! Another option is to build your own natural swimming pool!
Wild Swim is by the founder of Outdoor Swimming Society. Kate Rew takes you a on a wild journey to brave the elements in some of the most awe-inspiring swim spots – from the white-sand beaches of the Scilly Isles to tidal pools in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides. Each swim is described in loving detail – from waterfalls and natural jacuzzis to sea caves and meandering rivers. And also there is practical info on how to find these remote spots. Features beautiful photography by Dominick Tyler, this is a must-have book for serious swimmers and seaside paddlers alike.
Many wild swimmers use a sunscreen, so choose one that is free from nano-particles that pollute our waters. See the post on where to find good natural sunscreen (never use human sunscreen on dogs, even the natural ones contain zinc oxide that is toxic to furry friends).
The Little Wild Swimming Book is a charming independently-published guide, packed with practical advice, safety tips and health benefits, along with inspiring quotes, useful resources and beautiful illustrations. It’s written by a wild swimming enthusiast, and makes a great gift for the novice wild swimmer, or experienced dipper. It’s part of this wild swimming gift set which includes an OEKO-certified cotton towel (grey, green or pink).
Choosing Sustainable Swimwear
So what do wild swimmers need to know? One thing to be aware of is what kind of cossie you choose. Although it’s fashionable these days to buy swimming costumes made from recycled plastic bottles, these do leach plastics into the sea, river or washing machine. Which rather defeats the object of collecting and using up plastic waste.
It’s difficult to find biodegradable swimwear that won’t leach plastics into the sea. Los Angeles brand Natasha Tonic is made from hemp, hopefully more companies will follow suit. For now, just rinse out swimwear where possible, instead of constant washing. Batoko and Made of Water (Cornwall) both sell costumes made from recycled plastic, the former says to swish cossies for 10 minutes and avoid washing with Velcro, zips or sneakers to minimise breakoff of fibres. Nor use bleach, fabric softeners (and don’t dry clean or iron). Lay to dry in the sun, and rinse after being in chlorine. The company did a test with a microfibre catch bag and found their swimsuits had less removal, than polyester fleece. Safety experts do not recommend swimming in cotton t-shirts, as they soak up water, which could increase the risk of drowning.
Many wild swimmers choose to use wetsuits due to the cold weather, so choose a greener wetsuit brand. Also try to find biodegradable swimming hats (silicone is less likely to leach than ones made from nylon or recycled plastic).
Also see the post on be careful which flops you choose (again, go for natural rubber over ones made from plastic). Recycled rubber flops are okay for pottering around, but should not be used in the water (recycled tires also contain plastic, which again can leach back into the sea).
1001 Outdoor Swimming Tips is a lighthearted and informative guide to all kinds of outdoor and wild swimming. Whether you’re planning your first forays into swimming outdoors or enjoy icy swims in the depths of winter, this book will take you through everything you need to know.
The vast range of topics covered includes:
- The safety of others
- Cold-water swimming
- Night swimming
- Swimming with children
- Essential gear
Whether you’re a wild swimming novice or have plenty of experience in water, Calum’s entertaining and knowledgeable advice will inspire and help to enrich your time in the water.
Calum Maclean is a writer, broadcaster and experienced outdoor swimmer. He swims year-round in all conditions – from cold-water dipping and competing in ice swimming races, to long-distance, open-water swims. He makes films for the BBC on this subject in Gaelic and English and is an ambassador for the Outdoor Swimming Society. He lives in Aberfeldy, where his regular swimming spot is the River Tay.