I've been hesitant to put this post up as along with the recent hot sunny weather there seems to have been a lot of people getting into difficulty / dying after getting into open water. For example: http://www.grough.co.uk/magazine/2013/07/10/lakeland-ranger-urges-swimmers-to-use-commonsense-after-coniston-death
However, I've decided I am going to share this post, Mainly because (CONFESSION ALERT) I enjoy wild swimming... Will it ever be as safe as swimming in a pool? Probably not, but, it needn't be as dangerous as some people think it must be.
At the risk of this sounding like a manifesto the world is an increasingly sanitised place with people isolated from some of the realities. Meat comes from animals, milk from cows (1 in 3 children don't know where milk or eggs come from) and the outdoors is a beautiful place if you treat it with the respect it deserves.
Basically, I'm all for people getting out into the wilds but do think before you leap or you might do something reckless without realising it...
As for wild swimming, I discovered this a few years ago and really enjoy it. Connected to nature, admire the scenery and wildlife while you swim and no chlorine to make your eyes water. Yes, it can be dangerous but people can get injured or killed while crossing the street also. There is no such thing as "risk free".
The Green Cross Code was invented to teach people how to cross the street safely. Maybe we need to do a similar thing for the countryside or before long people will only be enjoying it from within 100 yards of their cars!
So, how to minimise the risks when wild swimming:
1) THINK, THINK, THINK!
Where can I get out?
What might be under the water?
How well can I swim?
How fast is the water?
What are the tides like?
2) Walk in slowly.
a) it means you are likely to be in a spot you can get out from.
b) you are less likely to go beyond the warmer surface water (as the deeper water can be very cold) as opposed to jumping in.
c) you aren't going to crash head first into a submerged rock / shopping trolley.
3) Swim with others as they can see / help if you get into difficulty.
4) Make sure you can be seen by other water users such as boaters. e.g. hat, brightly coloured swim cap.
5) NO ALCOHOL!
6) Fresh not stagnant water. Less likely to catch something...
7) Swim upstream first if there is a current. That way you don't have to swim against the current on the way back when you are more tired...
These bits of advice are based upon my experience of wild swimming and do seem to be broadly similar to advice given out in articles such as the Lakeland Rangers above or the OSS advice here. Now, I don't know what happened to the man in the Lakeland Rangers article and I'm not going to speculate. Maybe the advice would have helped, maybe not... as I said above, nothing in this life is without risks of some sort.
Just so long as we are not stopped from doing something by a nanny state as it deems it too perilous...
Now, you are all adults which means you can ignore all of this if you want (indeed, I often swim alone). Just be sensible and enjoy the activities and risks you find acceptable and enjoy doing.
Finally, some photos: