Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’
Gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades
For ever and forever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!
— Alfred Tennyson, Ulysses

If you asked a circle of UK wild swimmers to name their favourite spots, chances are at least one of them would mention Dorset’s sculptured jewel: Durdle Door. Courtesy of our happy aquatic community, we’ve seen countless photos of this great limestone arch, shaped by the relentless march of the ocean, although we’d never actually visited it ourselves – until now.

Last weekend, 2nd-3rd September, James Wight and his team at Adventure Uncovered launched their inaugural event: Destination Wild Swim Ft. The Wild Swimming Brothers. It was a chance for us to join with our friends at Adventure Uncovered, leading two beach talks and lots of guided swims along the Jurassic Coast. More importantly, it would give us an opportunity to meet 30 avid wild swimmers and all-round outdoors enthusiasts for a weekend together of happy wave bobbing and chin waggery.

So, in the early hours Beth, Calum and myself (Jack) made our way south and arrived at Durdle Door Holiday Park, three hours later, where we were treated to a long blissful period of glorious sunshine. As it happened, we'd been blessed with one of the most beautiful days of the year. The sky was cloudless and the ocean shimmered as the rays caught the crests of low, gentle waves. We couldn't have hoped for better conditions to lead our first few swims, through the iconic arch of Durdle Door. 

We wasted no time in getting into the water. After a walk led by a conservation expert and local ranger from the Lulworth Estate, we immediately rushed down to the beach with our gang of swimmers, foregoing the scheduled talk to instead leap straight into the waves and make for the gleaming arch, leading three groups of swimmers on a loop through the clear, greenish water. 

Passing under the arch and stopping to peer underwater, at the abrupt appearance of kelp-covered rocks, and overhead, at the rugged, white bend of the arch, is an experience you don't soon forget. Everyone seemed to be similarly invigorated and mesmerised in that moment. Then we all headed back to the sunlit beach and collapsed happily amongst the chalky shingles. 

Later on, Calum and I gave a talk about the origins of the Wild Swimming Brothers, with the best backdrop we've had so far (pictured below). We talked about, among other things, the importance of blubber and the woes of picking up parasitic hitchhikers. Then we led another, much longer swim around the coast to the tranquil, shielded waters of Man of War Bay. Everyone got stuck into the swim, regardless of ability or age and the blow-up kayaks and paddle-board were kept busy following the group as we threaded the choppy, gleaming surface. It was great to meet the different characters who joined us in the water as well. Like English Channel swimmer, Lisa Lloyd, who was pregnant at the time. At the end of the swim, Lisa said that the Man of War steps were much more difficult for her, so instead she opted to swim back around the choppy coast with consummate ease. We all followed in a staggered group, along with surprise guest Luke, who’d also joined us a few months earlier for our swim in Obonjan. All in all, it was an exciting, salty baptism to wash away the residue of our respective routines - a great gathering for folk who love the outdoors and being in the water!

That night, in need of some well-earned R&R, we followed a dark coastal path over a hill to a pub and bistro near Lulworth Cove. There we drank our share of ale, cider and wine and ate a hearty meal together with a sombre helping of Serious Chocolate. 

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The following morning we woke to a dreary sky and intermittent showers. After a talk on free-diving with NoTanx, we took an intrepid smaller group down to Man of War Bay, under the white bluffs of the Jurassic Coast, and found the turquoise waters raging, but still no less irresistible. 

...large waves lashed the nearby rocks and spat clustered whorls of froth into the air. It was a wild, spontaneous and exhilarating swim...

The following morning we woke to a dreary sky and intermittent showers. After a talk on free-diving with NoTanx, we took an intrepid smaller group down to Man of War Bay, under the white bluffs of the Jurassic Coast, and found the turquoise waters raging, but still no less irresistible. Grinning all the while, our group plunged into the waves and came up rolling and bobbing over peaks and into troughs. Meanwhile, large waves lashed the nearby rocks and spat clustered whorls of froth into the air. It was a wild, spontaneous and exhilarating swim (not too cold either!) and a great way to end a fantastic weekend with a motley crew of adventurers.

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After returning to London we were met with that usual, reassuring sense of withdrawal - a bittersweet reminder of the fun you've had and the importance of spending time in the natural world. So, we just want to say a huge thanks to James, his team at Adventure Uncovered and to all those wonderful swimmers who came along to experience this beautiful stretch of coast - we hope you had as much fun as we did!

Words Jack Hudson

Photography Adventure Uncovered & James Silson

 

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