i Editor's Letter: The revitalisation of outdoors swimming


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The Independent Online


To the pond, for a dip. On a sweltering day nothing rivals the water’s cold embrace. The best way to break the surface is to plunge, hanging in the air for that instant, knowing it is too late to stop the chilling surge. Then down into the green murk. Bliss.

The bore of city life is the jostle for tarmac. So I don’t mind the four-mile climb up to Hampstead’s Ponds, mecca to London’s outdoor bathers since the 19th century. Brilliant azure damselflies skit across the surface, and you’re walled in by willows on three sides. Beyond them, the Heath, that glorious island of countryside.

Outdoors swimming has been revived in the past decade – and what weather we have for it this summer. A movement has grown, the Outdoor Swimming Society, founded by Kate Rew. Enthusiasts include the writer Margaret Drabble. The premise is simple: find a watering hole, get in, enjoy yourself and tell others about it. The society’s website carries lots of suggestions on where to go and safety pointers, some of them obvious (ask locals, pick somewhere suited to your level, relax...).

The point of it? Well, the exhilaration of paddling in rivers, waterfalls, rock pools and reservoirs. Enjoying our natural heritage. Plain fun. The top half-dozen I’d like to visit are Snowdonia’s glacial Llyn Idwal; St Nectan’s Kieve plunge pool near Tintagel, Cornwall; the Thames at Clifton Hampden (or at Port Meadow, where it inspired Lewis Carroll); Plodda Falls in the Highlands; the huge George V seawater lido in Penzance; and Northumberland’s Linhope Spout, for a leap off a ledge. Come on in, the water will be... most refreshing.


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