With so many new experiences to try in the Lake District, Open Water Swimming was just one of the many on our list to do more of. Especially with the summer we are having so far this year, who wouldn’t find the allure of a glistening, crystal clear, world heritage lake inviting on these hot days.
Watching people do summer evening yoga and swimming, or running and swimming, or wild camping next to tarns for early morning swimming, makes you want to join in. When you are not confident swimmers though, you do think of your safety first. Damian and I can both swim, but never really learned properly and certainly can’t front crawl with correct techniques. I couldn’t even really put my face in the water when doing breast stroke. However, we do both love heading in to open water, seas, snorkelling and have even taken on the Polar Plunge in Antarctica. (I’m sure swimming in the Irish Sea, off the coast of Blackpool, as a child, was way colder though.)
Rather than risk our safety, we decided to look into groups that guide you on safe open water swimming and thankfully there are quite a lot to suit the level you are at. Our first experience was with Swim the Lakes. With a base in Ambleside, this team are brimming with experience and kit to comfortably get you started on your way to enjoying the scenery of an outdoor swim. Whilst only achieving breast stroke on this particular training session, we both felt safe at all times and were okay despite being in a big group of more experienced swimmers. It was a great introduction in what to consider when venturing in to open water and that knowledge will stand us well when we get to the stage where we can take on more open water swimming.
Our second training session, that came via a recommendation from Swim the Lakes, was with Christine of Sleeker Swim. We booked a one to two tuition session and headed over to Fell Foot Park at the other end of Lake Windermere this time, for some individual help on our swimming technique. Whilst Christine normally takes people in to the open water to improve their technique rather than teach them the basics, like we needed, she was really patient and so clear with her explanations on what we should be doing. We both know we need to head to a pool to ‘learn to swim’ better, but for me personally, learning the breathing technique and front crawl in open water was the right thing to do. Yes I’m odd. In my head, if I can achieve what I did today in open water with kayaks, boats, weeds and fish around me, then improving that technique in a pool will be simple.
We would really recommend both companies and they have wetsuits and goggles to hire, along with swimming caps so you can be seen in the water. They advise on kit for colder seasons, tow floats for your safety, groups to join, techniques for races and events and are really welcoming in wanting you to enjoy and be safe in the open waters we have in Cumbria, no matter what level you are at. I am really looking forward to getting to a stage where I can join in on their various open water swimming events and social swims and can’t wait to see what stage I am at next summer.
For families, if you are heading to the Lake District during this school holidays, there is a national programme offering free outdoor swimming and water safety sessions for children aged 7 to 14, running from Tuesday 24th July to Saturday 4th August at Lake Windermere. See Swim Safe for details and for other places and dates throughout the UK. Who wouldn’t want that opportunity for their children to enjoy safe swimming outdoors.