So summer is in full swing - bees are busily bumbling between flowers, squirrels are darting across the grass, choosing their favourite trees, and the sun is grinning (most of the time) as it beats down upon us. If you haven't already, this is the time for you to finally get out into open water and swim freely on nature's terms. There's no better way to cool off or clear your mind at this time of year. We want to help you cut loose and find the perfect escape, so we've decided to share five explorative tips we've picked up from our time spent roving the countryside, seeking out ideal lakes, rivers, ponds, lochs and tarns for floating, jumping, diving and swimming.
Remember The Bear Necessities
They say you never step in the same river twice, well the same is true for floating down one. Every time the ride is different, subtly nuanced, constantly changing as the subtle appearance of the river evolves. When you drift around a bend there's no telling what will be waiting for you beyond the bank: a cantankerous otter, a dog liberated from its owner or a fallen tree, slumped sidelong against the current. Sometimes you'll be encircled by farmed fields and other times you'll be hemmed-in by steep, chalky cliffs. Waterways invite you to understand the permutations of all those little journeys we take in life. So, if you find an entry point and allow yourself to float downriver, it's likely you'll make new and exciting natural discoveries and find swim spots you never knew existed. Just lean back and let the current deliver you to all the river's hidden secrets. In no time at all you'll find yourself amongst entangled thickets, arriving at places you couldn't have reached if you'd travelled by a car, or even on foot.
Just be sure to find out where it is you want to end up and make sure you've arranged a lift or train back to your starting point so you don't wind-up stranded.
Listen To Local Wisdom
No one knows where's good for wild swimming better than the locals of that area. Many of these wild swimming spots are mad popular through hearsay. Indeed, it's likely the local kids have snuffed-out every last drop of swimmable water. Don't be afraid to ask local dog-walkers, shop-keepers etc... for information about where is good to take a dip. They'll also know about potential hazards and private patches. Listen to the kids if you want to find the best dose of water-bound adrenaline.
Travel To The Source Of A River And Follow Its Course
This is similar to the bear necessities method we mentioned above. The difference is that this time you'll have to travel to high ground to find the infant streams that feed lowland rivers (a little prior research is definitely in order). After that you'll essentially be hiking, Ghyll scrambling and canyoning your way to secret cascades where larger, taller waterfalls pour into enclosed plunge pools. These pools are absolutely ideal for quiet wild swimming. They've often very cold and you have to watch out for currents beneath the waterfalls, but as long as you're safe it's likely you'll uncover many a private sanctuary suitable for prolonged periods of thoughtless floating and sandwich scoffing.
The key to discovering the perfect swimming spot is a willingness to explore. That's the only way to uncover those harder-to-reach, less-swum waters. So, why not take a long walk off the beaten track? As long as you know the way home, there's no reason why you shouldn't take the road less travelled in search of those lochs, tarns and more pristine waters often hidden amongst the hills. If you've studied the area, smaller lakes and more undisturbed waters are likely to reward your wanderlust. Essentially, if something is wild it needs to retain a certain innocence - a separation from the common, discovered world of regulations, red tape and clipboards. With that in mind, one of the most enjoyable aspects of wild swimming is the search for unknown tracks and secret waters you can claim for your own.
Do Your Research
There's a lot to be said for the rogue approach, spontaneity is often rewarded in wild swimming and there's no telling what you'll find at the end of a wander. That being said, pre-planning is also very important if you don't want to wind-up somewhere without any water nearby... or lost entirely. In the past we relied on paper maps, although today Google Earth and the recently revamped Wild Swim Map, created by Kate Rew and the Outdoor Swimming Society, are fantastic tools for discovering hidden spots. There's no harm in learning as much as you can about the local layout before you head to a new area.