Wild Swimming

There is something about water. Something we are drawn to as humans. To drink, swim, wash and frolic. I love fresh water swimming! Nothing delights me more than finding a hidden swimming hole or a magical waterfall. No matter the temperature, if I find a waterfall or clear pool while walking, I’ll be the first strip down. Sometimes its the joy of diving into a cool pool on a hot day. Sometimes it’s less graceful; minutes spent half in, half out of freezing water, in the cold British weather, regretting your choice, not wanting to chicken out. Before finally plunging in with a squeal and a splash, you gasp for air in the cold and wildly doggy paddle around. Finally jumping out and running for a towel and a fire to sit by. Whichever, the sense of achievement is great and the adrenaline greater. The peace and happiness we get from wild swimming is – for me anyway – unmatched.

My passion for wild swimming was cemented in the hot summer of 2017. Me and my partner Joe were campervanning around Europe in our beat up van, which had neither air conditioning, nor a refrigerator, nor a shower. By May we were in Spain and the temperature was reaching 30C most days. It was too hot to do anything but be by the water. So we made one of the best purchases of our life and downloaded the Wild Swimming Guides by Wild Things Publishing… Our trip was transformed: these guides became our bible and we spent the rest of the summer driving between secret swimming holes. From tropical looking waterfalls, to mossy gorges, to freezing cold crystal clear alpine streams, to vast deep black lakes. They kept us cool and clean for months.

Italy, 2017

In this blog post I thought I would share some of them with you and talk a little about the joys of wild swimming.

One of the first places we swam in Spain was Salto Del Usero . We drove through dusty vineyards, past crumbling old farm houses, their red tiles roofs caving in and roses growing through windows and out of doors. After some wrong turns, double checking of maps and then finally, after spotting some locals in swimsuits and holding towels, we arrived at our destination.

Down a dirt path, we descended into a small valley where the river lay. The water had cut a canyon, and at the first pool the rock formed a roof above our heads, with a milky turquoise pool below. At the far end of the pool was a rushing waterfall and around it clustered bright green ferns. Vines hung down from the stone ceiling and shafts of sunlight came through the opening. A more magic setting could not be found! Hot and flustered from our drive we dove into the water, which was cool, but not cold. The sandy floor cushioned our feet and fish flitted around us. All the stress of driving and the heat of the day were lost in those blue waters. As we swam towards the falls the force of the water pushed us back and sprayed our faces. Finally we collapsed laughing and happy onto the warm rocks in the sun. Later that day we decided to park up the van and spend the night by another pool near by. This pool was crystal clear and the water gushed from a spring. Here we spent the evening jumping into the pool, drinking wine cooled in the cold stream and eating mulberries from a bush that grew near by. And so our wild swimming adventures began.

Spain, 2017

Another highlight of the trip was spending time at a hotspring in the Pyrenees. Once again, on the recommendation of wild guides, we found ourselves winding up the hairpin roads of these beautiful French mountains, hoping the road wouldn’t get any steeper or narrower. Finally, we rounded a corner to find half a dozen other living vans teetering on the edge of the mountain road, it was clear we had reached our destination. After a scramble down the hillside and up through some woods we arrived at a steep clearing in the trees. At the top of the hill the water flooded out of the rocks, so hot it hurt to touch. The smell of sulphur was strong and clouds of steam rose into the cold air. Dream catchers and prayer flags hung in the trees, adding to the magical feel of the place. The water ran down the hill, dropping in a series of waterfalls into multiple man made pools. Each pool had been created by digging out the basin a little and piling rocks to the side. They were slightly cooler as they went down, and about half way the water was the perfect temperature. Groups of naked hippies bathed themselves in the pools, a mixture of french and Spanish. After entering the pools ourselves, our muscles were loosed and our minds rested. The company was good, but the waters better. We stayed all day until our skin was wrinkled and the sky darkened, between the leaves above us the stars came out and the milkyway twinkled. Someone lit candles around the pools and magical light danced on the water. What was supposed to be an afternoon turned into two days, until we reluctantly drove off.

Austria, 2017

If you can find a hot spring to bath in, you’re hit the jack pot! Often remote and closely kept secrets, these gems will satisfy all, in all weathers. Although, I have been to naturally heated spas like bath spa, nothing compares to being in nature while bathing. For the full beneficial effect of these waters, one much be immersed in the landscape. No wonder our ancestors saw these springs as magical, healing and holy.

When hot waters cannot be found, fear not because research shows that cold water swimming has a wealth of benefits for us physically and mentally. It can increase circulation, boost moods and help the immune system.

You can find great suggestions for swimming spots in the Wild Guides mentioned above or via other blogs and forums online. I encourage all to stay safe, check weather forecasts for heavy rain and be careful when jumping or diving into water.

Whether you choose a swimsuit, a wetsuit or a birthday suit I highly recommend give wild swimming a go!

Slovenia, 2017

One response to “Wild Swimming”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.