Swimming outdoors in winter is seen by many a strange activity. So I find myself skulking about and trying to avoid being seen as I go for my solitary cold dips. (written March 2014)
When it is cold I want to be able to get warm and dry as quickly as possible afterwards, so where I swim is limited to places I can park my camper van very close to the water.
Swanton Morley Mill fits the bill on both counts as I can park on the bridge, sneak down to the water, walk through under the bridge (as long as the flow isn’t too strong), and swim around in the mill pool then back through the bridge to push myself off the weir into the pool below the bridge.
It’s possible some of the drivers of the many vehicles that pass on the busy B road glimpse a dark figure with a red swim hat bobbing about in the pond, but they’re probably concentrating on not meeting another vehicle on the narrow bridge.
Occasionally I see a fisherman. Sometimes I share the weir with kayakers, and I have even been joined in the mill pond by fire and rescue teams practising how to save people from floods. But usually I’m on my own.
It is hard to explain to anyone why I do this. This is the first winter that I’ve carried on swimming through an admittedly mild winter (so far). It’s a challenge. Going every week helps me acclimatise to cold water. It is fun when the water is fast — more likely in winter — to be pushed along by its force. And everyone that has become hooked on cold water swimming knows about the buzz you get and how good you feel once you are warm and dry.
Swimming with others is more fun, and there’s no need to care what people think. I know that the advice is that you shouldn’t swim alone, especially in cold weather. But I don’t want to give up my swims just because no one else is around. I have carefully assessed the risks and keep them to a minimum by getting out before I’m too cold, keeping to water I know well and walking in rather than jumping in.
See swim safety advice links, especially for cold water, on my Links page
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