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The Plymouth Herald reports: More than 50 hardy swimmers took to the water on Sunday as part of Saltash Regatta weekend to swim across the River Tamar to Devon and back. Participants raised £1,000 for Little Harbour Children’s Hospice at Porthpean near St Austell.

The swimmers were all members of Devon and Cornwall Wild Swimming, and the swim was organised by the club’s founder Pauline Barker and partner James Vickery.

Devon and Cornwall Wild swimming has grown in numbers from just five members at it’s outset in 2010, to more than 5,000 today.

 

Regular swims are held in and around Plymouth as well as all over the two counties. More…

Take a look at wild swimming on Plymouth Hoe

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The East Anglia Daily Times reports: Open water swimming is growing in popularity. But as well as being enjoyable, could immersing yourself in cold water in the great outdoors be good for your health? Sheena Grant reports

“When you swim,” wrote the late, great Roger Deakin in Waterlog, his spellbinding book about wild swimming around Britain, “you feel your body for what it mostly is – water – and it begins to move with the water around it.”

For Roger, whose journey first suggested itself to him as his swam in the moat around his Suffolk home, swimming – especially outdoors – was like returning to a natural state, to experience how it was before you were born, in the safety of the womb.

He recalled illicit swims from his youth, clambering over a fence to get to the open-air pool in Diss on a sultry summer’s evening, and in the night sea at Walberswick seeing bodies “fiery with phosphorescent plankton striking through the neon waves like dragons”.

Swimming was so much more than a physical activity. There was a spiritual demension to it too. It informed his being like the memory of dreams.

Roger was ahead of the game with his 1996 masterpiece. It’s taken the rest of us a little longer to embrace the joys – and health benefits – of outdoor swimming. But we’re getting there. Membership of the Outdoor Swimming Society has jumped from just 300 in 2006 to more than 25,000 in 2016.

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Seamus Bennett, organiser of the Felixstowe Swimscapes Open Water Swimming group, has no doubt that swimming outside benefits both mental and physical health.

“It’s free and when you do it in a group like we do (which is the safest way) it is very social,” he says. “It gives people the sense of being in a community that takes in different ages, genders and backgrounds. Swimming is a great equaliser and tremendous exercise for all parts of the body.

“Being in open water gives a real feeling of freedom, challenge and achievement that you don’t really get in a pool, unless you’re swimming huge distances. It’s definitely never boring; every swim is different.

“Our group has grown every year since it started in 2012. We’ve gone from 12 to 500 (Facebook) members now. Not all of them come but the interest is there. Numbers at swims have grown too though. On a summer Saturday last year we were getting 30-40 people. This summer I suspect it could go up to 50 or 60

“On your own open water swimming is dangerous. For newcomers especially, having a group and knowing that the sea you are swimming in is safe and knowing the tides is reassuring and important. Being part of a group is more enjoyable too.”

Felixstowe Swimscapes’ summer season runs from May to October, when meets are held on Saturday mornings and Monday evenings, but some members swim all year round on a Saturday morning.

“In the summer we swim to the pier and back, which takes 60-70 minutes but people can do less than that,” says Seamus. “They can do any distance and we swim parallel to the shore so it’s easy to get out when you want to and walk back along the prom. The water quality here is good and there are no dangerous currents. We get people from all over the region who come to join us.” More…

Click here to discover why swimmers in Britain were hung out to dry…

 

 

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BBC News reports: A film-maker and photographer is sharing his passion for wild swimming in Scotland’s cold rivers, lochs and seas.

Calum Maclean, from Inverness, makes films and vlogs of his swims and posts them online and also to the website, BBC The Social.

His efforts to seek out new places to explore is also the feature of a new series of TV programmes to shown on Gaelic language channel BBC Alba from this week.

For Into the Water (Dhan Uisge in Gaelic), Mr Maclean was filmed at locations in the Highlands, islands and Argyll.

They included Loch Maree in Torridon, Sanna in Ardnamurchan and a swim between Seil and the island of Luing in Argyll.

Before attempting challenging swims at sea, Mr Maclean checks information on tides and currents, and draws on local boatmen’s knowledge of the waters.

The wild swimmer said: “I never jump straight into cold water – so always acclimatise for a minute first.

“It’s the first 90 seconds that take your body to get used to it, to help avoid cold water shock.”

He added: “Like I say in one of the programmes, I always assess first: how deep is it, how cold is it, are there hidden dangers under the surface such as rocks or branches?

“Also, where can I get out, is there a current, or a rip tide?

“And though I sometimes swim alone – I am experienced at it, and I know my limits. I always get out before you feel cold.”

However, Mr Maclean said there are also places in Scotland where most people should be able to swim safely.

Mr Maclean said: “There’s a boom in wild swimming at the moment.

“It’s very popular now in Scotland and England – in fact all over the world; groups are forming on social media to help people find out about the best natural swimming pools and go swimming together.

“I think the reason it’s so big now is because it becomes addictive – you go once and then you’ve just got to go again.”

Discover the new Hung Out to Dry website…

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The Guardian reports: “Beaches in Blackpool, Ilfracombe, Hastings and Margate among those set to fail new safety standards in 2015, despite water at public swimming spots being cleaner than ever last year.”

Twenty-five beaches in England may fail to meet tough new EU standards for bathing water quality that come into force on Friday.

Water at the 417 bathing spots monitored by the Environment Agency (EA) in 2014 was cleaner than ever recorded, with 99.5% meeting standards for intestinal enterococci and E. coli, faecal bacteria that cause eye and ear infections and gastroenteritis. In 1988, a third of swimming spots failed the tests.

swimmers vote with their feet

But the data published by the EA on Friday show that authorities will have to redouble efforts to make all public swimming areas safe under the revised EU Bathing Water Directive, which comes into force this summer bathing season, which opens on Friday.”

The beaches expected to fail new EU bathing water standards

Allonby
Blackpool Central
Blackpool North
Budleigh Salterton
Burnham Jetty North
Clacton (Groyne 41)
Cleveleys
Fleetwood
Hastings
Haverigg
Henleaze Lake
Ilfracombe Wildersmouth
Instow
Lancing, Beach Green
Lyme Regis Church Cliff Beach
Morecambe South
Mothecombe
Porth
Porthluney
Seaton (Cornwall)
Silloth
Spittal
Staithes
Teignmouth Town
Walpole Bay, Margate

For more on this topic click here…

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As more and more of us are finding confidence in open water, and with the seaside holidays just on the horizon I thought you might find this article of interest.

Published in 1913 by the ‘London Religious Tract Society’: The Boy’s Own book of Outdoor Games and Pastimes, contains some interesting observations from that champion of sea swimmers Captain Webb.

Swimming in a Rough Sea

Matthew Webb, the son of a country doctor, was born in 1848, learned to swim in the Severn, and as a little boy saved a brother from drowning. This was but the first of several gallant deeds of life-saving by Webb. Trained on the ” Conway,” Webb took to the sea, but relinquished a sailor’s life in 1875. In the August of that year he swam the English Channel. Plunging into the sea from the Admiralty Pier at Dover at one o’clock on August 24, he reached Calais at 10.40 the next morning. He was in the sea nearly twenty-two hours, and swam in all about forty miles. In 1883 Webb attempted a more daring feat, though its extreme peril was urged upon him. He sought to swim through the rapids and whirlpool at the foot of the Niagara Falls. He plunged into the river from a boat on the afternoon of July 24, 1883, and passed safely through the worst of the rapids; but, on reaching the whirlpool, he sank and was drowned. Webb’s Channel swim did much to increase public interest in swimming, and to popularise it as an exercise.

Victoria Park London

There are very few landsmen who know what a really rough sea is. The largest waves ever seen round the English coast, even in winter, give no idea of a storm in mid-Atlantic, or what is to be seen in the China Seas between Singapore and Hongkong when the monsoon is on. It will be of no use for me to describe how to swim to shore through such waves as these, though I do not say but what it is possible. The reader may remember the story of how our old friend Robinson Crusoe landed on his island, when the boat was upset.

Cautions

The two chief things to guard against are, being dashed by the waves on to the ground or against a rock, or being sucked under by the great wave on its return from the shore. Few people realise the enormous force of the waves.

Webb Swims the Channel

Those who have been in a really rough sea in the Atlantic or else­where, will remember how a huge wave often seems to follow the ship as if it were going to overwhelm it, when, instead of the wave coming over the vessel, the ship rises and it passes on. Just so in swimming ashore. You will see a tremendous wave behind you ; if you are not too near the shore, and if there is no crest to this wave, you will find that you will rise with it, and you should then do all you can to swim on the top of the wave, which will help to carry you rapidly towards shore.

Should the wave have a crest, that is, a sort of foaming curl, you must do your best to avoid being caught in it. When, therefore, the wave is close upon you, turn round and dive into the wave, and swim under water with all your might against it. You will soon shoot out the other side, when you can again turn and swim towards the shore. It will generally be found that every third wave and every ninth wave is larger than the rest, and that a very large wave is followed by an unusually small one. When you get near the shore you should watch your opportunity, and try to land in one of these smaller waves.

Swimming in Surf

In swimming out against a heavy surf, of course you should start in one of these lesser waves, and when you see a huge wave coming towards you, dive down and swim under water through it as much as possible. You will find that you shoot out the other side, and you will by these means avoid being caught by it and perhaps dashed on shore. Recollect that the waves out at sea have the appearance of moving along at a rapid pace. This is an optical illusion. The water moves chiefly up and down. (I am not taking into account any tide.) If you watch a log of wood in a heavy sea, you will see the log rise and fall, and you will notice it is not carried along on the top of the wave—except if it gets on to the top of a wave and gets dashed on the shore. It will often get very near the top of the wave, and the wave will break in to the shore, leaving the log still swimming in the trough of the sea beyond. The best sort of swimming to practice in order to swim through a heavy surf, is to learn to swim well under water.

To be able to swim through a strong surf is sometimes very useful. Many years ago, I was at Port Natal, in South Africa, and each night I used to go out in a boat which was fastened to what is known as a surf-line, one end of which was fastened to a wreck out of which I was assisting to get the cargo, and the other end of the line was fastened to the shore.

The boat at night had to be tied to the wreck in order to keep it afloat. I had to swim back through the surf each night, and out again next morning to unfasten the boat. The natives, though generally supposed to be famous swimmers, were unable to do this themselves.

Great care should be taken by feeble swimmers in bathing, not merely in a rough sea, but in what is known as a heavy swell. Often when the sea looks almost calm, if there is a flat sandy shore, the water will rise and fall in a very deceptive manner.

Advice to Boys

When there is a swell on the sea, the depth of the water may suddenly vary from five feet to seven feet. A weak swimmer who gets knocked off his feet is entirely at the mercy of the water, and as the tide may be running towards where the ground is just a trifle lower, a person might be carried out of his depth by this decep­tive undulating motion of the water, and find great difficulty in getting into it again.

The most useful form of swimming is to be able to keep up a long time, and I would strongly advise boys before they begin to learn to swim twenty or thirty yards very fast by means of the overhand stroke, to practise first a steady breast stroke. This may seem old-fashioned, but I have always found the benefit of it. When you can keep up for, say a quarter of an hour without touching the bottom or resting, then it is quite time enough to begin what may be called fancy swimming.

A person who can swim a little is generally more liable to get into danger than one who cannot swim at all. The latter will most likely either have a rope or keep well within his depth. The former is apt to venture out just as far as he can, and too often a somewhat nervous person who can swim a little when he knows he is in his depth, gets flurried on suddenly finding he cannot touch the bottom.

Another important point to consider, even if you are a first-rate swimmer, is the temperature of the water. For instance, a very good swimmer—i.e. one who has been known to swim for an hour—might run into considerable danger if, without thinking about it, he took a swim out in very cold water.

How times have changed! Can you imagine boys being encouraged to prepare for and then to enjoy swimming in rough seas today? Ironically it does still happen, under the umbrella or the RLSS. Please read through the safety advice found on the Hung Out to Dry website before swimming in rough seas!

Swim Safe: advice for parents and children

Swim Smart: for Adults and Teenagers 

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In the latest expression of ‘state care’ a 150 year tradition bites the dust as it’s now too popular.

Mixed Bathing at Brighton

The BBC reported: “…Brighton and Hove City Council has decided it will close the beach on Christmas Day over ‘safety fears’ after a man got into difficulty in the waters earlier this year and another [inebriated] swimmer had to be rescued… three years ago.”

Brighton Swimming Club

“Brighton Swimming Club agreed to follow the council’s lead and cancel its annual festive swim after its dedicated group of 30 …swelled to 4,000.”

Fancy Meeting You Here

“Seafront Manager Chris Ingall added: ‘Sea swimming takes skill, stamina and knowledge …and should only be for the very experienced, using suitable wetsuits, in very calm conditions and with a friend.”

I don’t swim in a wetsuit, but when I go winter swimming I find the sea inviting. Most people simply paddle and splash in the shallows leaving serious swimmers to a deeper water dash. When I get cold I get out and enjoy the feeling of afterglow over a hot drink.

Click on the picture below and see just how different attitudes are in Denmark.

“I don’t look forward to spring because then the ice swimmer season is over.” Lily Sølvig Wedel Krambeck, 8

The freedom to swim has been massively eroded in recent years. But in Europe swimmers are not nanny’ed out of the water as we are here. To quote the words of Boris Johnson: “To swim, perchance to drown, is an undeniable human right.”

Yet this right is being denied. True if people take to the water in an irresponsible way they may well end up paying the ultimate price, but unless we allow the freedom to chose how will people learn that actions have consequences?

Today conditions are perfect for sea swimming, warm bright sunshine with easy tides. But now that the club swimmers have followed the Councils lead, what will become of those less experienced swimmers that take to the sea away from their watchful gaze? Will they really be safer now that their is no one to watch over them?

If the Nanny State is going to control every aspect of our lives we’ll just have to get used to being treated like children. Either that, or we’ll have to grow up and start to think for ourselves!

In Switzerland attitudes are very different, please enjoy the video below:

Swim Safe!

Could Health and Safety Drowning us by Accident?

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File:Penberth Cove - geograph.org.uk - 36523.jpg

I spent the Christmas season with friends in Cornwall, and having sampled the delights of swimming in the wintery seas of St Ives, I enjoyed a visit to a family farm in the wildest part of West Cornwall. With no gas, electricity, mains water or telephone line, you might think that life on this windswept hillside would be unbearable, yet the house was warm and comfortable and my hosts Pearl and Walter, delightful.  As Cornish as the day is long, this couple view a visit to Truro as a trip up country, and rarely venture beyond the horizon as seen from their wild and imposing landscape.

As we were taken on a tour of the farm, Walter explained that drinking water for the house was pumped up from a well that the Phoenicians divined and built some 2,500 years ago, to supply fresh drinking water straight from the ground, rather than using river or lake water as did the locals. They brought slaves to work the mine’s three shafts, burrowing deep beneath the farm.  Its treasure was exported along what was known as Solomon’s Route to the ships, then on to distant shores. Walter is not a swimmer himself, but the pool he had built on his land delighted Pearl, a keen swimmer from childhood.

Back in the farmhouse we sat in candlelight as Pearl told me the story of her mermaid like childhood. She grew up in Penberth Cove, some 3 miles from Land’s End, which supported a thriving fishing community. Pearl relates: ‘Grandfather lived in the house next to the sea, and I grew up in a flat above the fisherman’s cellars.’ Born in 1942, Pearls childhood coincided with the golden age of swimming. She swam for 20 minutes each morning before breakfast, and after a day of schooling in St’ Just, she returned to the sea for another 20 minutes before tea. Winter swells made the rocky cove too dangerous for bathing, but calm weather at any time of year put swimming on the daily agenda for this fishing and swimming community.  Even when she started work Pearl would swim every day late into the evening, ‘It was wonderful’, she remembers.

As the tide goes out at the cove, three sand bars can be reached, and a small rock pool is exposed which became the playground of the young. Pearl learned to swim at the age five, her mother Eva swam out to the sandbars carrying Pearl on her back. The doggy paddle brought her safely home, but a fear of deep water developed when she could not touch the bottom along the way. ‘I was eleven or twelve before I learnt to swim properly,’ Pearl remembers. ‘I spent the whole summer in my swimming costume.’ The children were in and out of the water all summer long and when Eva took a plunge the children would shout ‘tidal wave’ referring to her corpulent stature. The water was home throughout the day to adults and children alike. ‘Mother knitted my first costume, but it became so heavy when it was wet, that it would hang down to my feet. I ended up swimming in shorts and a t-shirt, it was more decent,’ she said.

With a dozen boats in the cove there were always adults around, but the children were not supervised as such. Eight children lived in the cove itself and another 13 came down from surrounding villages to bathe. The older boys built a 12 foot raft with oil drums beneath for buoyancy, and anchored it in the middle of the cove to swim out to. ‘Once it broke free during a storm and it went out into the English Channel, they had to put out a warning to shipping.’ Teenagers would move the raft over to the rocks so that young children could use it to climb out of the sea and then jump in off the rocks. Pearls little brother was taken out by the older boys and swam back on his own aged only three. ‘He swam with the doggy paddle and has swum like a fish ever since.’

You might think that this easy going attitude towards swimming could end only in tragedy, you would be wrong, no child drowned in the cove. Teaching children to swim in open water was always seen as a good thing as it put swimming abilities into perspective and taught respect for life and the sea. What a contrast these golden days of swimming make with the restrictions of childhood today.

I love listening to stories like this and visiting historic swimming holes, but unless an effort is made to capture our history it will soon slip beneath the tides of time. This year I hope to celebrate 100 years of swimming and with your help make 2012 a year for swimmers to remember. Please visit www.hungouttodry.co.uk and click on the icon: Look, Listen, and Swim: 2012, for more details.

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