Call it fun, spiritual, addictive, or pure torture – however, you categorise open water swimming it has become a national obsession! I have been at it for years as it happens (step aside Wim Hof!) and am so excited to see the gaggles of cosy DryRobes, fluorescent Swim Secure Floats and spot joggers gathered at the waters’ edge exchanging notes after an endorphin-releasing dip or swim.
With open-water and cold-water swimming, it really is a case of ‘don’t go in the open water if you don’t want to become addicted to the open water’ and its incredible benefits to mind and body of course. And that is what Lime Wood is all about – mind and body, so let me tease you into some tips, local trickling treats, wave-stroked wonders and rushing rivers that will benefit your whole being.
Firstly, it is worth noting that being safe is key, please dip with a friend or spotter, make sure you choose water that suits your ability and general health, and then enjoy, (and should you get into any difficulty the advice today is to float, just layback and float – see the RNLI’s new lifesaving guidelines for more on this technique)
Secondly, it’s so much fun that I find myself getting very excited as I run down the beach or swing into a river, and let’s face it we all need some infectious inner child!
Where are the best swimming spots?
Head to the coast
So let’s jump in! The obvious first choice is the sea, and here in Hampshire we have miles of coastline, so the beach is a great place to start and if one can brace the October waters, (currently 14-18 degrees), I wear a tri suit rather than a wetsuit year-round, as I run as well as swim, and keep up the good work on a daily and weekly basis, so the seasonal drop in temperature isn’t so noticeable (I add neoprene gloves at temperatures under eight degrees for comfort and an extended season, i.e. through to next summer!)
The sea has many benefits; the very scale of the water is most humbling, the changing waterscape, the salt – as they say most things can be cured by saltwater; the sea, tears and sweat! The sea is my sanctuary and I swim all along the south coast, sometimes adding a run to the adventure or just diving in – I have also, with an event as chaperone, swum across the Solent, around Brownsea Island and the Isle of Wight’s Needles and lighthouse, all virtually spiritual experiences… Here in the South, we have wild beaches, castles, and miles of golden sands, it’s heaven.
For freshwater dips there are plenty of rivers and lakes in the local area and throughout the New Forest, please see the list below for starters and enjoy colourful and wildlife filled riverbanks, sandy river beaches and pools, overhung by ancient oaks, rope swings and inquisitive birds.
Have a go!
Why not have a go at any of these locations before the temperature drops off later in the Autumn, and keep at it, with or without a wetsuit, and get into that habit, it’ll be one you won’t want to break.
Hampshire: Milford-on-sea, Hayling Island, Lepe Beach, Stokes Bay, Hengistbury Head
Dorset: Sandbanks, Canford Cliffs along to Bournemouth and Boscombe, Studland Beach
Hampshire: Hurst Spit, Hengistbury Head Pond & beach
Dorset: Kimmeridge, Chapman’s Pool & Dancing Ledge, Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove
Hampshire: Bolderford Bridge, King’s Hat – River Beaulieu, Eyeworth Poole – Fritham
Dorset: Ibsley Bridge, Castle Hill & Ringwood – River Avon, Moreton Ford, Secret Pool in Creech, Colber Bridge in Sturminster Newton, White Mill, River Stour in Sturminster Marshall to Eye Bridge in Wimborne, rope swing & pool at Canford Magna – River Stour
Join the club!
If you get hooked (that’s another tip – please give fishermen a wide berth!) why not join a swimming club – there are many to choose from on social media. The most profound benefits of open-water swimming, fitness and new friends aside, will be to your mind, it simply can’t process anything other than the bracing now.
Benefits of diving in
When asked what I think about when I swim – the answer is simply ‘nothing at all’! One also mustn’t ignore the anti-inflammatory benefits of cold-water swimming, if you exercise hard, are rehabilitating or suffer from mechanical ailments let the cold water help you on your way to recovery.
And, after that bracing dip, the sense of achievement and peace of mind is overwhelming – and the smile won’t leave your face for hours…
Have a go at any of these locations before the temperature drops off later in the Autumn, and keep at it, with or without a wetsuit, and get into that habit, it’ll be one you won’t want to break.
If you want to give it a try, we have put together a guide for all the essentials you’ll need, read it here.
If you want to read some of Zoe's work, read her article about her recent visit to Lime Wood here.