All this reading is great isn’t it? Although I bet what you really want to do now is get outside and go on your very own adventure. Before you do so, there is some planning that needs to be done so that you can stay safe and get the most out of your trip. First let's look at the definition of an adventure through the eyes of an adventure expert...
According to Bilbo Baggins an adventure isn't something to be desired, it's nasty, disturbing and uncomfortable. However, I'd be more inclined to listen to Bilbo at the end of his journey...
Tolkien once described himself as a hobbit in all but size. It seems clear that the voice of both author and character are starting to merge in this instance. In the end, Bilbo's adventure was a personal journey related to the natural world, with a start and finish. Something embarked upon, with trials, tribulations and challenges to overcome, which also has a natural end. While Middle Earth might be a tad hard to reach (and dangerous) for your next adventure, follow our 7 tips below to take your first stroke on your very own wild swimming adventure.
Adventure is Personal
Now, this is the most important part - your adventure should mean something to YOU. Don't worry if it's not a well known river or lake, don't worry if no one else has swum it, don't worry about the length or size. Pick a body of water that you have a personal connection with. Your story and the reason you want to swim it will resonate with like-minded people and will be more fulfilling and memorable than an arbitrary river. Has anyone ever swum the longest river in your county before? Perhaps you'd like to do a bridge-to-bridge swim or a point-to-point lake crossing. Just get creative and make it personal.
This is probably juxtaposed to the common perception of an adventure, with images of faraway mountains, polar ice caps, treacherous channels and famous rivers and lakes, but I would advise you to stay local for your first few wild swimming adventures. Put down Lonely Planet and look at your local rivers or lakes to find a waterway near you, perhaps the river nearby, where you grew up. Maybe the longest river in your county or the lake nearest to your house. Why? By choosing a nearby area of water you will immerse yourself in your local environment and see somewhere very familiar from a totally different perspective.
Get out there and tell people about your wild swimming adventure, this can range from telling the local swimming club to spreading the word through local press and beyond. You'll be amazed at the positive response you'll get from the outdoor community. For Swim the Eden we had local people offer up their gardens for lunch spots, elderly couples offer us hot mugs of coffee at the end of the day and one man who even offered to come swim with us and bring us his prize-winning Cumbrian cheese. It's these little gestures that go a long way to making your grassroots swimming adventure truly memorable and a hell of a lot more fun.
Ditch Google And Get Out A Map
Now Google Maps is great, but my advice would be to get an OS map of your local area and trace the course of your river or lake the old fashioned way. There’s something about opening up a huge map on the table, tracing the route of the river with your finger and following the contour lines and landscape as it changes. This will bring you closer to the adventure on a visceral level and allow you to visualise the point-to-point nature of your swim. Also, big maps are just really fun and make you feel like a regular Ranulph Fiennes.
Find Out What The Bloody Hell Riparian Access Means
This point is key to ensuring that you keep local people, farmers and landowners on side. Who actually owns a river or lake? Can I actually swim the whole distance? Where can I get in and out? What should I do if I encounter a fisherman? All these questions can be answered by googling Riparian Access. My advice would be to be humble and polite at all times, approach local landowners and angling associations and inform them of your plans, giving them a heads up will work wonders and most people will be extremely positive about your plans. After all, they most likely love the waterways as well. In the case of disputes, swim past quietly and always stick to the opposite bank to any fisherman. Let’s give wild swimming a good name and build this attitude into our adventures.
Invite People On Your Swimming Adventure
Any good adventure is about the journey along the way, not just the challenges you overcome but most importantly the PEOPLE you meet. Invite people to join you on your river adventure, whether it’s just for a quick dip or a whole day’s swim. Having people join you will not only be great for your morale but also a fantastic experience for them. If you can inspire even one person to come along and join you then that's a fantastic thing and really what an adventure is all about.
There is something very appealing about following and swimming a river from its source all the way to the sea or across a channel or lake. Perhaps it’s a primal urge to reconnect with the natural journey of water like Roger Deakin’s Waterlog, or perhaps it’s about completing a swimming challenge in its entirety, conquering the full length of the river like Martin Strel's Big River Man. Whatever the reason, make your swimming adventure a natural journey. Even if that means a long hike to the source of a river or chartering a boat for a channel swim. Completing your swim in its entirety will be all the more fulfilling.
Lastly, the main advice for your very own wild swimming adventure is just to take the first step and enjoy it. Who knows where your adventure will take you and who you'll meet. And that’s the point really...
I'll leave you with another quote from one of my favourite adventurers, Bilbo Baggins: