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Wild swimming for beginners

Grab your swimsuit and splash into the magical world of wild swimming. Taking a dip in a lake, a river or the open sea is a wonderful way to wash away stress and find a freedom in nature. Also, outdoor swimming is just as good for your physical health as for your mood – cold water has been proven to boost your immune system, improve your circulation and give you a natural hit of endorphins. There’s nothing like the feeling of emerging from a river or the ocean with tingling skin and a clear mind, but be warned – wild swimming is seriously addictive.

Whether you want to swim for exercise year round or just drop off the deck of your glamping spot on a hot summer’s day, outdoor swimming is also a wonderful way to explore Britain’s wildest corners. Once you start seeking out the UK’s quiet, reed-edged rivers, shady forest pools and hidden waterfalls, you’ll be astonished at the beautiful, crowd-free wild spaces you can find.

Not sure where to start? You could make wild swimming the star of your next escape - many of Canopy & Stars’ places to stay are near lovely swim spots, or even have their own accessible lakes or rivers on site. If you want to meet like-minded swimmers and explore new local spots, try joining your local outdoor swimming club – the lists 100 social swim groups across the UK. and both list amazing spots to swim at in Britain, from the quirky ‘pots’ – river plunge pools – of the Lake District to hidden Scottish beaches and deep Cornish quarries.

Follow the wild swimming tips below to keep safe, then just jump on in – the water’s lovely.

  1. Do your research online before swimming in a new spot – check that the water is safe to swim in, that you aren’t trespassing and that wild swimming is permitted.
  2. Avoid swimming alone – take a buddy with you.
  3. Scope out your swimming spot carefully before you jump in. Check the depth and flow of the water (avoid swimming in rivers with fast-flowing currents) and look out for any hidden rocks or submerged branches.
  4. Look for an exit point - work out how you’ll get out of the water before you get in.
  5. Cold water is very good for you, but make sure finish up your swim before you get too chilly and start shivering. On colder days, have a robe and a hot drink handy, so you can warm up quickly when you get out of the water.
  6. Consider wearing a wetsuit and aquatic sandals for extra warmth and protection.
  7. If you encounter trailing weeds or seaweed, don’t panic – just float gently through them, swimming using your arms but not your legs.
  8. Avoid swimming in city rivers and canals – the water is more likely to carry harmful bacteria.
  9. Don’t swim anywhere with stagnant water or where you see a greenish bloom on the surface – this could be blue-green algae, a bacteria which can make you sick.
  10. Never swim after consuming alcohol.

Sian Lewis is the author of The Girl Outdoors - a great site for anyone who loves adventures.

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