From my earliest memories, I have an awareness that being in water felt good. I don’t mean being in the bathtub, but rather in open water be it at the seaside, by a lake (or, in my case, more likely a loch) or a stream.
My dad was an incorrigible swimmer, and on family trips and holidays to the seaside, his first action was to don his swimming trunks and leg it to the sea – no inching in to the waves for him, with the usually bracing water creeping upwards. No, dad would take a run and plunge himself into the foamy brine and lose himself in the freedom and magical sensation of moving through water.
I think it must have been dad’s influence that encouraged me to feel ‘in my element’ in the sea. I soon became a proficient water baby and enjoyed many swims and dips with him on the Ayrshire coast, in Montrose, on the Scottish east coast, in Belfast Lough, Northern Ireland, where his sister had a small holiday house we would visit most summers.
One memorable swim with dad, when he would have been around 76, was in a little bay near Amlych, Anglesey, when a seal popped up next to dad, producing a few Glaswegian expletives.
Together, my children and I spent numerous seaside holidays with my parents over the years, in Aberdovey, Anglesey and Pembrokeshire, and both were soon as intrepid as dad and me. My daughter, now in her early 40’s is a regular wild swimmer and leaves me far behind!
Over the years I became more aware of the effect of immersion and moving in water, be it swimming, floating, treading water or diving down into what lay below. No pool, other than maybe a tidal sea pool could achieve the psychological feeling of well-being for me, as being in water in the open air.
It seemed to take me to a special place in my ‘being’, produced a sense of contentment and connection with the world around me.
As I have grown older I have done less open water swimming, partly, I tell myself, because those special swimming buddies are no longer nearby, and sometimes those challenges seem too overwhelming to do alone. A number of wonderful swims on holidays keep returning to my head when it needs to find some respite. These experiences re-ignite that gnawing itch that I want to swim more in the open, so some online searching led me to discover the Outdoor Swimming Society, and on a local basis a Facebook group, Shropshire Outdoor Swimmers. I registered with both groups and hope to become active in the Shropshire group’s activities.
When a fundraising idea was proposed at Designs in Mind, to highlight World Mental Health Day on October 10th this year, to raise money for a piece of equipment for the studio, a little seed began to germinate in my head. The fundraising brief was for members, volunteers and staff to set themselves an ‘adventure’ or challenge to be carried out on October 10th, and for sponsorship or donations to be secured through our website.
The ‘seed’ started to grow, and initially 2 or 3 showed interest in taking part in an adventure to do 5 or so swims or dips in different locations in the day in October. The idea has not exactly gone ‘viral’, but the number of potential swimmers has doubled! Currently, logistics and feasibility are being explored, with discussions about wetsuits or not, water and air temperatures, sanity levels all being considered. There is excitement, tinged with apprehension in the air…
Many people attribute a positive link between open water, or wild swimming, and improved mental health, and numerous books and articles written on the subject, such as ‘Dip’ by Shropshire photographer and writer, Andrew Fusek Peters. In his book he describes how;
“I was recovering from a six-month stretch of severe depression that had seen me hospitalised for part of the time. During those long months, writing, reading, swimming, laughing, the taste of food, love, activity, the outdoors: all were inaccessible; terrifying; gone. As I slowly mended, it was partly the action of water, that great liquid of life, which had one of the most profound effects on me. It’s an element that is both changing and changeless. It’s healthy too. Studies show that wild swimming boosts immunity.”
Another favourite quote of mine was discovered on The Outdoor Swimming Society Facebook page:
“Fresh air on my skin, fresh water on my body, fresh thoughts in my mind,
fresh memories to savour.”
Now that’s why I swim outdoors…
So, bring on World Mental Health Day on October 10th. Our adventure awaits.
To sponsor Kath and Co on their Wild Swimming adventure please go to