Words by Bethany Allen
Often when we visit new places the challenge of having a good time requires extensive research. What museums can be found nearby? Are there any events taking place? Shall we book a horse ride on the beach? But sometimes the effort it requires to have a good time can eat into the holiday itself. So what if we told you that we have discovered an incredibly immersive and inspiring experience, which is totally free?
The concept of wild swimming is nothing new; we were swimming before we were walking. What is new is the stress and pressure of modern society. Nowadays, many of us spend the majority of our time burning the candle at both ends and forgetting to stop for a minute and breathe.
Our project, Wild Swimming Cornwall, may be based in Cornwall but luckily we are an island nation and there are numerous swimming locations dotted throughout the country. Meaning that wherever you choose to vacation; you will be in close proximity to a body of water. Whether it's a lake, a river, or the ocean, these are some of the most picturesque and beautiful places that you can find. Places where you can walk through woodland and witness the dappled light filter through and dance off the surface of a lake, or where you can approach the divide between land and sea and listen to the soft whisper of waves gently folding onto the shoreline. They are places that soothe our busy minds and that allow us to reconnect to nature.
There are also numerous health benefits associated with wild swimming. So if you're dubious about getting in the water then perhaps these may help incentivise you to take the plunge. First and foremost, wild swimming provides any daily excursion with an added dose of adventure. The environment that surrounds water is usually full of life; there will be trees crowding the banks of a river, or in coastal locations we can witness cormorants dive beneath the waves and surface nonchalantly just metres from where we swim. Wild swimming therefore allows us to access a picturesque pocket of nature and immerse ourselves in another world.
Aside from the ecotherapy element, swimming in cold water also has a positive physiological effect on our bodies. As our bodies adjust to the cold our heart rates increase and our capillaries dilate; this improves our circulation and builds up our immune response. The result is that we become more capable of fighting off illness and disease; the blood from our extremities rushes to our core and we feel utterly alive and invigorated. All of this, simply from stripping off and heading into the water.
Some people may feel like they're too old or not fit enough to get in, but the truth of the matter is, if you can swim, you can swim outdoors as well. For the elderly, being immersed in water relieves stress put on weary bones, and if you're unfit just look at it as a brief dip - it's not a marathon. Even 2 minutes in the water is proven to kickstart our bodies metabolisms and aid with weight loss. For those with underlying health issues, it's worth checking in with your GP beforehand.
Ensuring that you approach every swim with safety in mind is important and we have extensive safety information on our website that takes into consideration tides, rip currents, weather, sea life and more. It is always recommended to check the weather conditions and tides if you're visiting a coastal location and for rivers it's important to choose an area where the water isn't rushing past but is more of a gentle flow. Lakes are great because all you have to worry about is stepping onto the twig strewn swampy ground - in which case you can opt for swim shoes. As well as considering the swimming conditions, it's always recommended to swim with at least one other person. The beauty of this being that every swim includes a social element and the more people that swim the bigger the community grows. And what a community it is.
Wild swimmers tend to leave their egos at the water's edge; it's hard not to when you strip off and enter the water with squeals of laughter. It allows us to become more in tune with our childish side, the side of us that loves splashing around in water and bobbing around without a care in the world.
Ultimately, seeking out wild places to swim speaks to a deep part of us, it connects us to our instinctual desire to be near water and it satisfies our thirst for adventure. With a rise in staycations set for the foreseeable, we are increasingly looking for adventure at home and wild swimming provides that. It also provides a purpose to any excursion, a purpose that is totally free and family friendly. We know it can be difficult to muster up the courage to get in but you don't have to jump in headfirst; you can tentatively dip your toe in and then gradually wade up to your shoulders - until one day you are confident enough to take the plunge.
For more information on the benefits, safety and joy of wild swimming please visit our website www.wildswimmingcornwall.co.uk.
You can also check out our Beginner's Guide.
Wild Swimming Cornwall recently raised the funds to publish A Guide to Wild Swimming in Cornwall via crowdfunder. They are offering pre-sales of the book for those seeking inspiration for places to swim in Cornwall, which will be published before the summer. They hope that the guide will encourage more people to access the beauty of blue spaces.
Why not read our Majestic Cornwall and Devon for some inspiration, or dive straight in to view all of the inns in Devon and Cornwall.