Why I Swim in Winter

The festive season is upon us. The Christmas lights festoon the high street. Villages and towns are lit up like clusters of constellations across the countryside. The adverts are telling us, the shops are telling us, the school, the radio, our family are telling us. Christmas is happening.

I love the sense of wonder at this time of year, but it can so often become stressful. The expectation that we must spend, spend spend… buy presents (and get it right this year!), and have everything ready for the “Big Day”. Sometimes it can take over, and in amongst it all we forget to just stop and breathe and remind ourselves that we don’t NEED to put this pressure on ourselves.

But what I DO enjoy is the way everything becomes that little bit more sparkly and enchanting. Walking home past the houses on our street I love seeing how people have decorated their homes, each scene a little story about what Christmas means to them. The twinkling lights on the tree, the frosted art on the windows. There is a theatrical element to it all, as if we are setting the stage, ready to play our part in a worldwide seasonal celebration. I love this sense of unitedness. The stories that weave their way through the last days of the year. Stories that have been passed down from generation to generation. And whether we “believe” or not- it is tradition, for young and old, and there is something comforting about this.

Window Art by Local Artist; Kate Genevieve

But perhaps what matters most to me, isn’t the “Big Day”. It is in part ,the tasks and traditions. Collecting fire wood, stacking the log pile, making soups and stews, wearing wool and fleece. And it is the sense of being connected to the season. Noticing the changes; the robin that comes to the garden in search of food, the squirrels who look quite comical; twice their normal size with their thick fur and bushy tails! I find I need time in nature more than ever at this time of the year. In these short days, with less daylight and cold weather. When we retreat inside our homes, shutting the door on the outside world to be warm and cosy, perhaps this is when we all need some nature connection. To bring us into the “real” moments of Winter.

So this is the time of year I really embrace sea swimming!

This morning was my first swim of the month. Aside from being busy with the launch of my book, I’ve had the inevitable head cold that always arrives home with my youngest son from primary school in December. Storm Barra has also been busy making it’s way up the coast and there’s been no chance of swimming in these winds anyway! So all in all I’ve been disconnected from the wild remedy that keeps me grounded and I’ve been somewhat out of sorts. (Meanwhile Christmas has crept up on me just when I’m at a disadvantage!)

I’ll admit though; arriving at the beach this morning I didn’t feel 100%. I surveyed the conditions and despite the sun shining and waves only being around 2ft, there was a significant swell and a biting wind. My nose was running and my body gave an involuntary shiver. But as I made my way to the shelter of “our corner” by the pier, I was greeted by other swimmers and the atmosphere was more upbeat.

As we chatted and prepared to swim, there were others who hadn’t been in the water for a few weeks and we all agreed it was needed. Listening to my fellow swimmers I noted a common theme to the cold water therapy today; the topic of Christmas hard to ignore. Some had been ill and not able to get out to do any Christmas shopping and felt “left behind”, some had been busy at work trying to get projects finished in time for the Christmas deadline, one of the mums had a stressful school run having forgotten it was “Christmas Jumper” day and hadn’t bought a new jumper (and didn’t see the point in buying a new jumper just for one day anyway!).

As we entered the water we let out a huge roar in unison. What a release!! The chill hitting our bodies like pins and needles, intense pain soaring through our legs, arms, necks… and any thoughts or worries about Christmas and life on land forgotten. In this moment when your body is dealing with the stress of the cold temperature, you are in “fight” mode. As if under attack your body releases cortisol hormones, the heart rate increases and at the same time endorphins are released giving a rush of adrenaline and a high that (almost!) overrides the pain of the chill.

And while this is all happening, I feel every single sense is heightened. The sound of the waves and the seagulls, the winter sun, low in the sky, shining bright in your eyes, the smell of the salt water, the feel of the water as it carries me in the ebb and flow of the swell.

You are here. Now. In this moment, immersed in nature. And nothing else matters.

Afterwards as we rush to get dressed, numb fingers and bright pink skin, we are high from the experience. United by the joy of having a sea swim in winter. Each needed it. Each survived it. Each would do it again and again. Because whatever stress or grumbles we felt before, we no longer feel they are as important. This is the power of Nature.

As I sit here now, still in my Dryrobe, with two pairs of socks, fleece joggers and mittens, I am sparkling inside. I am smiling as I remember the scream as I entered the water. I am smiling as I think of us all dancing on the beach to warm up afterwards.

I am smiling because I know without a doubt Winter is here. That it is cold. That the temperatures have dropped. I know this because Nature tells me. The weather, the frosts, the short days, the long nights. The birds who have stayed, the wildlife that hunts hungrily, the plants that are hardy, the tree branches bare except for the evergreens… This tells me Winter is happening.

And with this natural declaration, a voice inside me whispers “I am ready”. Because SO much of what I love about this time of year, is the rhythm of the season. The cyclical nature of happenings and becomings. To witness these changes and acknowledge our place in the grand scheme of things. To give thanks for what we have. To come together and share in whatever way we can. To mark the ocassion and perform traditions that have been passed down through the ages, among the flora, fauna and folk.

With Nature as our host, we can always navigate where we are, and what matters. The endings, the beginnings. The present and the past. What we can look forward to. Traditions can still be embraced because of our heritage, our ancestors, our humble beginnings, but they don’t have to be materialistic.

Let’s just take a moment to recognise what is important, what is behind the scenes. Behind the theatre, the performance, what really matters?

Winter Sun Setting

We have reached another Winter. We are here, now. The world turns, no matter what. Seasons come and go. The nights, though long at this time of year, always give way to dawn. We are under the same Sun, the same Moon. We are part of something. A small part of something much much bigger than us.

Seas & Greetings to you all!

Girl Gone Wild x

Seas The Day (aka; feel the fear, and do it anyway!)

Yesterday I collected 300 copies of my book from the printers. After months of work “Seas The Day – A Year of Sea Swimming Poetry” is now making its way out into the world to it’s new owners. (Maybe you’re one of them!) So. There’s no turning back. And, despite it being small fry in the publishing world, can I tell you a secret? – I’m scared!

All my self doubts are having a party right now! They’re laughing their heads off. I can hear them …who do I think I am to publish a book of poetry? What if my poems aren’t good enough? What if all the people who have ordered the book are outraged and demand a refund!?

It’s an odd position to be in. I mean, no-one has forced me to publish my poems. I have voluntarily put myself out there knowing the risk. There is every chance that it’ll be a big fat disappointment. So why do it?

Well, honestly?; (and I know I’m not supposed to admit this) I’m not doing it for others. (ok, I am donating profits to Surfers Against Sewage so I am definitely doing some of it for others!) But what I mean to say is; I’m doing this for me. I’m doing this to make me step outside of my comfort zone. But I’m also doing it because I genuinely love every single moment of swimming in the wild, and the inspiration that comes to me, to write these poems as a result, is part of something transformational. And I think I’m feeling braver because of it.

So I’m testing the water! (Excuse the pun). I’m pushing my boundaries, I’m expanding my inner world to see what happens. I’m challenging my negative beliefs, I’m asking them to step up and face me, head on. Not in confrontation necessarily, but more with a sense of curiosity. I want to invite these fears that hide in the shadows, out into the light. I want to look at them, sit with them. Thank them for trying to protect me;

And then carry on regardless.

Because, I want to see what happens if we carry on. What happens if we let ourselves follow that shining light …the sparkly one that catches your eye and suggests magic, possibility, hope. What happens if we stop hiding, and we step out into the light, despite our fears, and show ourselves.

I want to believe it will be ok. I want to stop feeling anxious about the unknown, the “what if’s”. I want to focus on how beautiful the world can be, and to learn to trust in it. I want to adopt “beginners mind”, a mind that views life as if for the first time. That sees no harm in thinking magical things can happen if you believe they can. Above all, I want to prove my negative beliefs to be wrong.

Because, SO WHAT if my poems aren’t good enough? WHAT IF people aren’t pleased with the book? The fact remains I’ve still enjoyed the process of creating. I’ve enjoyed following that sparkly light!. And maybe, (and this is where I become a bit less sure but I’m going with it) Is it possible that it might still be worth it – that something less obvious might shift because of it? Some insight yet to be understood? Something you’d never come to realise unless you tried and failed.

Could it mean that by taking a risk, that our fears (and come on, we all have them!) could actually turn out to be just that. Just fear. That they’ve been calling our bluff this whole time? That maybe if we meet them, and hang out with them a while (not hook up, just hang out; there’s a difference!) then MAYBE we can live a life beyond them. Maybe we can trust ourselves, and the universe enough that EVEN IF the worst happens, we can still overcome it. Better yet; learn something from it. Even if it hurts, even if it feels uncomfortable, even if there’s loss, maybe there’s still a part of you that benefits from taking that risk? Maybe that sparkly light you followed lit up your soul, and made it possible to feel free for a while.

So, What is it for you? What risk have you taken lately, no matter how small? What were your fears? Did you think you might not, were you surprised you did? Or maybe you didn’t and you’ve been regretting it ever since?. What lessons can we learn about the limitations we put upon our own lives. What kind of personal lockdowns do we put ourselves in?

And if we can push past these; imagine what else there is to experience!. Imagine what freedom there is to be found. If we choose to just feel the fear, and do it anyway? Regardless of the outcome. In fact, IN SPITE of the outcome!

So there we have it, confession over. I still feel scared, but that’s ok. I’m hanging out with that feeling for a while. I guess I just wanted to figure out why I’m putting myself in this position. And now I know! (Thanks for sticking with me this far – This is what I love about writing – it’s so cathartic!)

I’m basically doing this because I’m not confident about my book, and because I’m worried it’ll be crap. But I’m carrying on regardless because my fears are telling me NOT TO! And quite frankly I’d rather trip over and fall flat on my face as I chase that shiny sparkly light, than be stuck in the dark with my (slightly annoying and over protective) fears for the rest of my life.

And to celebrate this fact, let’s just stop for a moment and contemplate another “WHAT IF”…

As my friend Emma said to me the other day;

“WHAT IF the Hokey Cokey IS what it’s all about!??”

Imagine that!

“Seas The Day – A Year Of Sea Swimming Poetry” is OUT NOW £8.50 + PP

Here Comes The Sun…

Witnessing the sun rise at any time of year is a magical thing to see. The drama of it will always make my heart sing, but in winter, with the dark mornings and sparkling frosts, it somehow feels even more magical when dawn breaks.

Yesterday morning as I was setting off for a sea swim my youngest son was up earlier than usual and I asked if he’d like to come and watch the sun rise with me. Now, my children aren’t known for being very enthusiastic about outdoor activities in the mornings so I was somewhat surprised when he said “yes”!

Delighted to have unexpected company I failed to check the weather conditions and simply bundled together a bag of swim stuff for myself, and a rucksack with some warm layers for my son. It wasn’t until we were driving down to the beach that I realised the sky (and any hint of dawn) was obscured by dense cloud.

Now, if you have kids you’ll know that in order for a new experience to be something they’ll enjoy, then it simply has to be a good one. If it’s a negative experience then it’s unlikely they’ll want to stay, let alone repeat it! (I guess we’re all like this really). So I was cursing myself for inviting him to watch what I promised to be a “magical event”, when I hadn’t checked if the magic was likely to show up.

We arrived at the beach to a grey sky, cold north wind and no visible sunrise. My heart sank. Still, I gave my Dryrobe and hot water bottle to my son while I had a quick dip. He scowled at me from the shore, making it clear he was less than impressed!

We drove home, me trying to convince him it was a great way to start the day, him disagreeing. I told him that this was actually part of the magic. That I’d been wrong to promise it because it’s not guaranteed. And because you can never really know what kind of beauty you’ll see, this is why Nature is so amazing. This is why when you DO see the magic, it feels really special. Like it’s revealed something to you that not everyone can see. And it’s done this because you made the effort to look, and take notice.

No response.

Later that day I asked my son if he’d like to come again the following morning? To which he shook his head.

And so it was this morning, I made my way to the beach at dawn on my own. And of course, there before me, in jaw dropping splendour , was THE most beautiful scene. The moon still up in the sky while the sun rose and golden light spilled across the ocean. With not a breath of wind the water was completely still. Stepping into the sea was like stepping into a clear, cold bath. I felt like crying! It was stunning and yet all I could think of was my son, and what he had missed!

But I suppose, deep down I know he will see it when the time is right. Maybe what makes a sunrise magical is that you seek and find it for yourself. It is your reward for trying. Perhaps trying to create this magic for someone else simply won’t work?

And yet, I think this what I want for everyone! What I experience in Nature is so profound, it makes me want to share it. I want to know if others see it and feel it, and are boosted in the same way. Is this so wrong?

Surely this is why we create? We feel moved by something. Inspired by something. Isn’t this why we write, or paint, or cook, or teach… we want to share something. To invite the participant to experience something and enjoy it. Maybe even inspire them to go create their own magic, their own way.

I guess there’s nothing wrong in trying to create a bit of magic. Maybe you’ll just never be able to guarantee the result!

And so, as I swam in the sea this morning, I captured every detail of the moment in my mind. Full of inspiration I returned home and wild words poured out of me, describing what I’d seen. I wrote a poem. (Below) To capture the magic so I can remember it, but also so I can share it with those that missed it. To try and create a bit of the magic that was there in that moment. To encourage my son, to encourage you, to encourage everyone of us that there is always magic to be found. You just have to keep looking.

Quiet morning light.
The moon lingers a while
Holding the space between night and day
The sky holds its breath.
While the sea lies undisturbed,
A silent lake
slipping beneath the horizon.
The break of dawn spilling liquid
gold upon glistening glass.
I float beneath the surface
Bathed in a golden sea
My mind, body and soul awash with the new day

My video has over 20,000 views on YouTube. But that’s not the best part!

When I first started the Girl Gone Wild blog I set up a YouTube channel to show my wild swimming videos. (If you didn’t know – hit the YouTube button on the home page!). To be honest I’ve been a bit slack and not paid much attention to it. But recently I received a lovely email from someone who had seen one of the videos. She traced it back to my blog and felt prompted to contact me as a result.

I’ll tell you more about why this email was so important to me later. But for now let’s take a look at what happened with this video. Curious that this email had come to me as a result of a video, I checked my YouTube account. This is when I saw that one of my videos (Wild Swimming at Durdle Door) now has over 20k views! This comes as a total surprise considering some of the other videos only have a few hundred views. So what is it about this particular video that has caught the viewers attention I wonder?

My guess is that there are two main reasons; Firstly, wild swimming has become HUGELY popular this past year, (see previous blog post about this here) and secondly; location, location, location.

Durdle Door is like the jewel in the crown of the Jurassic Coast, and with it being a UNESCO World Heritage site it certainly stands out from the crowd! Maybe people search for it and this comes up in the search results? It’s true I was incredibly lucky to have beautiful weather that day, (check out the blog post about it here). I was also blessed with an empty beach, but that only makes the location look more amazing! It just goes to show that location plays a big factor in what people want to see. Admittedly there are a few “Thumbs Down” clicks but I’m telling myself it’s because there’s no music and not because I look like an idiot. (YouTube banned the track – It was actually one of my own tracks but because I don’t have a licence to use my own music YouTube banned it!!).

But I’m really surprised it’s getting so many views. I have no idea what I’m doing when it comes to “building an audience” I just enjoy what I do, and hope that others will enjoy reading, watching, listening too. What I am also coming to realise is that sometimes you can do something with no expectation, and that’s the thing that will reward you the most!

You see, the loveliest thing about putting this video out there, is that by being brave and uploading it to the world, it’s making it’s way back to me. That morning of wild happiness that made me feel uplifted has been shared. And it’s been seen by someone who “gets it”.

The email I received from the lady who’d seen the film was such a wonderful surprise. She found my blog as a result of seeing the video and after reading a post she wanted to offer words of support. As someone who also has PTSD and uses cold water therapy to aid trauma recovery, she bravely told me her story and shared the things she does that help her manage life. And what an inspiring story it was! I felt priveliged to hear her words. It made me realise that if receiving ONE email from someone with a connection like hers is what comes of a video I made one September morning of me swimming in the wild, then this is my it is important to carry on. This is my “WHY”!

And what a wonderful thing to know! To know there are people out there who “get it”, and that by putting a little bit of wild out there for someone to see, it finds another wildling. Not everyone will “get it” and that’s OK. My hope is that over time these words, poems, films and creations will make their way out into the world for someone to find. Someone who it resonates with. Someone else who believes in the power of nature to lift us up and help us feel good in ourselves.

Maybe that’s YOU?

Girl Gone Wild xx

With a little bit of wild magic, I’ve written a book!

“Seas The Day – A Year of Sea Swimming Poetry” will be available at the end of November priced £8.50 + postage.

10% of profits will be donated to Surfers Against Sewage

Set on the stunning Jurassic Coast in Dorset, inspired by a year of sea swimming in lockdown, this collection of poems, journal extracts and photographs is the diary of a Dorset Sea Swimmer.

Each poem was written shortly after the swim. Accompanied by a journal extract from the day, it gives the reader an insight into what it felt like to be there at the time.

With swims taking place throughout the year, you are invited to dive in and share the experience of sea swimming all year round.

These poems are like love letters to the wild. Showing gratitude for the sea and the seasons. A little book that celebrates the power of nature, and the positive effect that cold water swimming can have on our wellbeing.

Here is the story behind how this little book came to be…

When I was a little girl I wanted to be an author. I imagined sitting at a writing desk, at a window that looked out to sea. I wanted to write about adventure and magic; beautiful stories of escape, hope and happiness…

I remember this now, but in all honesty I’d forgotten about that little girl and her dream, until recently.

I’ve written a journal for the past few years. Beginning with short, awkward, self-conscious entries, they soon became a daily ritual for me; a time to reflect and a space to reveal. This journal was just for me, and I never thought it would be more than that.

But when we suffered a global pandemic that enforced a lockdown on our lives, my daily ritual of writing a journal felt as though it had perhaps been a sort of preparation. A “drip drip drip” way of writing, that would eventually begin to flow, once I had more time to do so. And then the time came.

It was during this time that I was also inexplicably drawn to the sea. Having been diagnosed with PTSD earlier in the year (a result of past trauma), I had been spending more and more time in nature. The wild was where I felt my anxieties slip away, and with the coast being so near, it was as if I could hear the sea calling to me.

And so began my sea swimming journey...

Entering the sea at sunrise – West Bay, Dorset

We all hear about the benefits of cold water swimming; how it can improve our mood, boost our immune system, but at the time I had no idea about this. I simply found myself beside the water’s edge in October, knowing that I needed to be in the water. I have written about this many times since, and how it has had an incredibly positive effect on my mental health, but what I hadn’t expected was that it would inspire me to write. How could I ever have predicted that swimming in the sea would help me to reconnect with my love of words!?

I began to write poems after my swims. I wanted to speak of the magic I’d experienced in the sea. To try to capture the feeling, and share it with others. I’d sit on the beach and write love letters to the wild. Showing my gratitude for what it had given me.

On Christmas morning 2020, I left driftwood gifts beneath the pier. I’d made them for those that would find them. My fellow sea swimmers who had gotten up early in the morning, to head for the sea. I burnt a message onto these gifts; “Seas The Day”.

Driftwood Gift “Seas The Day”

I had no idea at the time that this would be the title for my book a year later. But I knew that it was significant.

After months of writing poetry with a passion, I realised I had written a whole year’s worth! One for every month of the year. Celebrating the sea throughout the seasons. Each one telling the tale of a swim. And somewhere during this process my inner wild child began to speak to me. She whispered that she still wanted to write a book…

And so it is, that these poems inspired by the sea, together with my private journal entries on those days have become a book! By accident almost. I’d never intended to create a book, but somehow it has come to be. With no plan or intention other than to write about the magic and adventure, the escape, hope and happiness that the sea has given me.

Seas The Day – A Year of Sea Swimming Poetry” also features a beautiful linocut illustration by the talented Nicole Purdie (Prints By The Bay)

I think we can safely say that you CAN judge this book by it’s cover! Inspired by a photograph of me entering the sea at sunrise at West Bay, this really does sum up the magic of this little book and I can’t thank Nicole enough for working with me on this!

“Seas The Day” Book Cover – Lincut Illustration: Prints By The Bay

So now YOU are invited into the very moment each swim took place, to hear the story, and to share the experience. Perhaps it will resonate with you, perhaps it will inspire you, above all my hope is that it might speak to you of the magic that can happen in cold water, and the powerful effect that the natural world can bestow upon us.

Which leaves me with nothing more to say other than;

It is the writer who begins the story. But it is the reader who finishes it”.

Girl Gone Wild x

If you would like to pre-order your copy please click below! 10% of profits will be donated to Surfers Against Sewage so you will also be supporting their work to protect our oceans, coastlines and marine life.

SwimVenture; Durdle Door, Dorset

September. The kids go back to school, the tourists go home and, after a rather mediocre August weather wise, the sun finally comes out to give a last hurrah to Summer. Scorching hot days with smothering heat and skies the colour of cobalt.

I wave goodbye to my youngest boy as he walks through the school gates, face brown as a berry against his new white shirt. I wonder at how it must feel to be wearing black socks and leather shoes after weeks of barefeet and lazy mornings. But he is happy to see his friends and doesn’t give me a backward glance. Yet again I realise how often I imprint my feelings upon my children, when I need not worry!

And so, I’m off. My rucksack packed, I jump in the stifling hot van and wind the windows down. I’m heading for Dorset’s “jewel in the crown”, the Durdle Door. I’ve been waiting all summer to swim here, and now, with a day not being “Mum”, and the space to breathe now the crowds are a little quieter, I’m feeling brave. It is my turn.

I’m the first vehicle to arrive at the Durdle Door carpark. It’s situated in the holiday park, so there are other people staying here, milling around, but none that are walking down the steep coast path to the beach yet. The heat is already 22 degrees, and the warm morning breeze evokes memories of past travels in the mediterranean. While I walk down the chalky white path to the beach I am serenaded by cicadas interspersed with the cries of seagulls and the silent wings of butterflies. The view is simply stunning. I breathe it in deeply.

Man O’War Bay, Dorset

Man O’War bay glistens below to my left, a perfect horseshoe with water so clear you can see the pebbles on the bottom from high up on the cliff. As the sun rises higher in the East, it’s rays sparkle on the turquoise blue water. It looks so inviting I almost want to jump in from here! As I approach the steps carved into the rock I stop and simply stare. Here, to my right, in the cool shade of the cliff, the imposing and magical Durdle Door stands, waiting.

Durdle Door, Dorset

I make the steep descent down to the water’s edge, stumbling several times on the dusty path. I can’t take my eyes off this incedible natural structure rising majestically up from the sea. By now I’m so hot from the walk that I literally throw my rucksack on the shore and run to the cold water with delight! With not a soul to be seen this is exactly how I’d pictured my long awaited swim here; A solitary swim out to greet the Door, sun shining, water clear as gin, and a stillness that I can literally submerge myself in.

As I swim out beneath the ancient archway I am blinded by the sun. I turn to float on my back and look up at the jagged rock, like a carved crescent of the moon. The sound around me changes as the water gently crashes against the stone. Above, the sky is cloudless and as I gaze at my surroundings I drift further out to sea, in awe.

There are rocks and caves along from the Door, rock pools full of darting fish and seaweed floating gracefully in the warm shallows. I decide to swim over and climb up to explore a while. I’m wearing rock pooling shoes but graze my shin as I climb up the rocks. Once up, I nimbly jump from one rock to another. I can’t be seen from the beach here and it feels incredibly secluded. Looking out to sea, I feel a familiar happiness wash over me, the sense of freedom that I get from being out in nature, alone.

I pick my way along the slippery rocks so that I eventually return to the entrance behind the Durdle Door. Like being back stage, I peer through and can see there are people arriving on the beach now. I know it is time for me to head back before it gets too busy. With one last glance over my shoulder towards the horizon, my inner wild child wants to jump deep into the sea.

One giant leap…

I leap from the rock and plunge feet first, hitting the cold water, waking up my whole body while billions of tiny air bubbles cascade upwards around me. I rise to the surface like a champagne cork popping. Heart racing, a huge child like grin on my face.

Back on shore I grab my rucksack and make my way up towards the cliff. There are lots of people coming down now. It’s a steep climb, but there’s a pleasant breeze against my damp hair and skin. I feel utterly invigorated, but also I feel intense gratitude for what I’ve just experienced. I am aware how lucky I am to be able to do this. Not just because I have it so close to where I live, and have the time to do it, but also because there are days when I simply don’t feel brave enough. My mind can play tricks on me, and my negative thinking over rules any courage I might have. This is why I am extra grateful on the days when I manage to make these SwimVentures happen. They are what keep me going…..

My top 3 ways to rewild yourself #1 Wild Swimming

Over the next few days I’ll be sharing my top 3 ways to be a bit wilder… and up first is my favourite! – Wild Swimming…

It’s been in the news SO much this past year. Cold water swimming has provided an escape from the confines of lockdown. A miraculous remedy for the stress and anxiety experienced in every day life. (and a slightly annoying new trend for those that have no desire to get cold and wet!).

It is well documented that the benefits to our immune system are a positive reason to immerse yourself in cold water. It’s true when I speak to fellow swimmers we all have stories of how it makes us feel GOOD, how it reduces inflammation in achy muscles, how we don’t seem to get as many colds as we used to. But it’s not just physically beneficial. Mentally it improves our self esteem, boosts confidence, fosters a sense of resilience…. and brings a huge smile to our faces!

For me it is all of the above, but I’m also aware of something else…

By swimming in rivers, lakes or the sea you are utterly immersed in the natural world. Your senses are all on high alert and this overwhelming sensation, I believe, is a direct pathway to your wild self.

The sense of freedom that comes with being outdoors in water can often feel like you’ve done something radical! Your inner wild child has dared you to be brave and you’ve embraced the challenge. But I believe that during this process, we are doing something that comes very naturally to us all, and we are reconnecting with a long forgotten knowledge.

We all began life in water, a fluid nursery inside the womb. Lets not forget also, that our bodies are made up of a large percentage of water. For women, there is evidence to suggest that even our menstrual cycles are linked to the moon and the tides. So perhaps when we are in water, it feels familiar, it feels natural on a subconscious level. In these moments perhaps we are transported back to our “wild” and natural selves. By connecting with the wild OUTSIDE of us, we can reconnect with the wild INSIDE of us.

For me this is where I am most happiest, and my soul is set free.

For more information about the physical and mental health benefits of outdoor swimming click HERE

For safety advice, including the risks visit the Outdoor Swimming Society

Far From The Madding Crowd

I live in Wild West Dorset. A popular holiday destination for so many reasons. An area of outstanding natural beauty it has The Jurassic Coast with its stunning beaches, cliffs and popular section of the South West Coast Path, lush rolling countryside, market towns, literary history and so much more…

But as a local living here in the summer it can sometimes feel a little over crowded. My anxiety levels definitely increase, and I easily become stressed by the influx of people, traffic, noise and litter. Places I’d usually consider a wild sanctuary are now busy and bustling with human activity. I feel like a wild animal cornered.

It is this time of year that I begin to avoid the coastal areas and head inland into deepest darkest Dorset. Sea swims are now reserved for early mornings only, before the beach becomes busy, and I find myself exploring local woodland, rivers and lakes. In search of a bit of freedom, and the peace and quiet I so crave.

One such place is Fiddleford, near Sturminster Newton in North Dorset. The River Stour is one of the few rivers that is recommended for wild swimming in this county, and it passes Fiddleford Manor feeding into a lovely mill pool. It’s been on my radar for a while and with the July heatwave it seemed like a good time to go and find it. So, on a summer’s morning, with our 11 month old puppy, I jumped in the van and set off in search of adventure.

Aware that even the most rural spots inland can get busy in summer, I set off early. The temperature already 20 degrees by 8:30am, a sure sign of a scorching hot day ahead. But travelling away from the coast and into North Dorset the roads were less busy with most traffic heading to the beaches. I could feel myself physically and mentally relax, and despite my sat nav telling me our destination was an hour away, I had faith I was doing the right thing.

Arriving in Fiddleford the free car park was empty, and all I could hear was the sound of water coming from the trees, and goldfinches chattering in the hedgerows. With the pup on a lead, and a towel under my arm, we set off along the narrow country lane with the sound of a cockerel crowing at us as we passed the old Manor farm yard.

On first glimpse of the water, I breathed a “wow” as damsel flies flitted around us and the water cascaded down the sluices and into a welcoming pool edged by reeds and weeping willow. The landscape itself appeared timeless and you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in a Thomas Hardy novel.

With no-one else around my four legged friend and I were eager to investigate, and hunted out a suitable place to enter the water. In no time at all we were swimming among the fishes and dragon flies, surrounded on all sides by this picturesque setting.

It never ceases to amaze me how the water can still the mind. How, as soon as my body is immersed, I am fully present in the moment. No anxiety. No mental chatter. Just breath. Just peace. My inner wild child is contented, and I somehow feel a sense of resilience, as though all is well in me.

I often find myself swimming solo, mostly because I can really engage with my senses and fully appreciate the experience, but also because I am very much at the mercy of my mental health. When I am anxious, or low, it is often a spur of the moment decision to get outdoors and do what I know makes me feel better. Conversely, if I am having a good day then I often just want to run with it, while I’m in the flow. Neither scenarios lend themselves to prior arranged swims.

I am aware of the risks of going solo though, and I do mitigate against this by always telling someone where I’m going, and researching the location before I go. I enjoy swimming with my local group of sea swimmers when I feel able to, and also have a great sense of loyalty to the monthly Mental Health Swims group I did my first ever winter sea swim with. But a solitary swim is sometimes the only remedy I can access.

Today though, I have a swim buddy. I look across at my pup, swimming like an otter, delighted with his new skills. His confidence is off the scale! I feel so happy that he is enjoying it as much as I am.

Feeling reconnected, and refreshed we walk back through the fields, the hot summer sun beating down on us. I swear there is a more vigorous wag to the puppy dog’s tail post swim. I also detect a familiar spring in my step.

Another adventure, and another wild swim for the soul.