With average sea temperatures around the UK reaching their peak in September now’s the time for a wild swim, and this new book is packed full of everything you need to know to take the plunge…
Wild Swimming Walks (published by Wild Things Publishing) features 28 lake, river and seaside days out by train from London, each featuring a wild swim.
But if you’re not based in the South East of England don’t be put off, not only will it inspire you to plan a day trip or short break, but it also has everything you need to know to stay safe wherever you take a quick dip in the great outdoors.
Put together by the Kenwood Ladies’ Pond Association, you get the feeling that the book has been written by some die-hard wild swimmers. But it also helps make this increasingly popular leisure pursuit accessible to all.
Walking and wild swimming are among the most democratic of leisure pursuits because they are free, require no special training and hardly any equipment.
From water safety, weather and the seasons, to equipment and downloadable route plans, you will feel more than prepared to get started with wild swimming. The book also provides vital information about rights of way and the right to swim in the UK.
There is an excellent chapter about the Kenwood Ladies Pond Association itself, which has stubbornly defended the right to swim on Hampstead Heath, campaigning to keep the swimming ponds open since it was formed in 1985.
The ladies pond itself was opened in 1926, and Wild Swimming Walks includes some fantastic photography with vintage black and white stills from across the decades.
The book is divided into three main sections: Lakes & Ponds (5 walks), Rivers (12 walks), and The Sea (11 walks) with specific advice for each of these very different wild swimming contexts.
A quality shared by the many varied stretches of fresh water called lakes or ponds is their stillness, a calm untroubled by waves or currents.
I particularly liked the Rickmansworth Circular, a gentle rural walk with swims in both the River Colne and Bury Lake (although the right to swim is currently contested at Bury Lake).
This six mile walk will take about three hours and there are plenty of pubs and cafe’s along the way if you prefer to make a day of it.
Or you could enjoy a walk from Arundel to Littlehampton, with startling views of Arundel Castle, ancient woodland, Norman churches, and the opportunity to swim in both the River Arun and a marine nature reserve.
Wherever you join the swimming ladies of Hampstead, they will lead you to secret lakes, river meadows and sandy beaches; with walks suitable for family days out or those looking for a more serious microadventure.
Whether you are a nature lover, a rambler or a wild swimmer, you will adore this retro style book with its beautiful photography and original illustrations, as well as intriguing anecdotes from the ladies themselves!
But before you decide to just dive right in, please read the water safety pages first and don’t forget that you can die from swimming in cold water.
In general sea temperatures in the UK are colder in the north than in the south, and the lowest temperatures are found in the North Sea, because these areas do not benefit from the warm waters of the Gulf Stream. Inland water temperatures can vary dramatically.
Wild swimming is more risky than swimming in a heated indoor pool, with a lifeguard on duty, but providing you are not reckless it can be done safely. Just do your research before you begin.
To celebrate the release of Wild Swimming Walks, I have a copy of the book to give away. Just visit my Facebook page for more information. Competition closes at the end of September 2015. **CLOSED**
Many thanks to Wild Things Publishing for the review copy of the book. Purchase your own copy of Wild Swimming Walks: 28 River, Lake and Seaside Days Out by Train from London.
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