Last summer it was estimated that wild swimming grew in popularity by over 50 percent, as more people looked for ways to connect with nature and keep active during the pandemic. Now you can join the many wild swimmers in the UK and take to the waters of Bristol and beyond, with the help of Yuup host and outdoor swimming coach, Rowan Clarke. Rowan hosts outdoor swimming taster experiences in Clevedon Marine Lake, that aim to give people the confidence to enjoy the many benefits of wild swimming in Bristol.
We talked to Rowan about the benefits of wild swimming, how you can take the plunge yourself and why Bristol is a great place to go wild swimming....
What is it you love most about wild swimming?
For me it’s really about the mental health and wellbeing benefits of wild swimming. I grew up swimming in the sea and I love being outdoors and in nature. It brings a kind of micro escape from your day to day life when you go wild swimming, and you really get a sense of calm, joy and peace, like a reset. The nice thing about swimming is that you can't really think about anything else, when you’re in wild water you have to be in the moment. You focus on your body, what it’s doing and how it feels and because of that you forget about all the things that usually fill your mind.
What are some of the benefits that getting into outdoor swimming can have?
I’m a mum, I’ve got children and run a business and wild swimming just gives me some time away from everyday life. Like a lot of people, I’ve had anxiety on and off over the years and it helps me keep that under control as well. Quite a lot of people that I swim with and coach have different things going on in their lives, from mental health issues like depression and anxiety to rheumatoid arthritis. It’s something that really does help them manage aspects of their mental health and their physical welling as well.
Why is Bristol a great place for people to go outdoor swimming?
Bristol has got a great variety of places where you can swim, from Henleaze Lake to Eastwood Farm Nature Reserve, which might come as a surprise for a city. The docks and the water are part of Bristol’s history. It’s a city that has a lot of green spaces and it’s quite a good place for thinking about wellbeing and trying alternative things, including wild swimming.
What makes your experience perfect for people to try wild swimming?
The great thing about seeking out a wild swimming coach or going with a group is that you can learn how to swim outdoors safely. A lot of the people who come to me who haven’t tried wild swimming before just need that little bit of confidence and support giving it a go. It might be something that they’ve been thinking about doing and want to do but they either don’t know how to get started, they don’t know how to do it safely, or they’re simply a little bit nervous. A lot of people are scared of water that’s out of their depth where they can’t see the bottom, and so it’s a really nice way of getting the confidence to then be able to go off and do it yourself.
Clevedon Marine Lake is amazing. It tracks the air temperature quite closely and at the moment the water is somewhere between 18 and 20 degrees, so it’s quite warm really! It’s also a super safe area to swim in, because there are no currents and no tides to worry about - it’s almost like a big rock pool. It’s filled with untreated water from the Bristol channel and it’s shallow, so you can touch the bottom in most of it. It’s a great place to go if you’re new to wild swimming - it’s a fun and surprisingly beautiful place to swim.
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Where can you go wild swimming in and around Bristol? Here are some of Rowan's top local spots for a wild swim...
1. Clevedon Marine Lake
Join Rowan for her outdoor swimming taster at Clevedon Marine Lake and you’ll get stunning views of the Somerset coast as you take a dip. Whether you want to work on your stroke, breathing, or simply just want to try an outdoor swim for the first time, having a coach with you can help set you up for future swims.
2. Henleaze Lake
An oasis in the city and an absolutely beautiful place to go outdoor swimming. The lake is for member swimming but the also have non-members day, to check when keep an eye on the Henleaze Swimming Club website.
3. Eastwood Farm Nature Reserve, Brislington
Go to Brislington to find an oasis in the city, with green space and waters for wild swimming in Eastwood Farm Nature Reserve. Closeby you’ll have Beeses Tea Rooms to drop into for a refreshing drink and lunch. In the summer you’ll find boats using the river here, so it’s worth being careful and always swimming with a buddy or in a group to be safe.
4. Vobster Quay, Frome
Set in an old quarry, at Vobster Quay Inland Diving Centre you can try a variety of water sports including wild swimming. The water is very fresh and deep and, again, the setting is beautiful. At the moment Vobster are only booking swim sessions for members but keep an eye out for non-member slots on coming soon on the Vobster website.
5. Farleigh Hungerford District Swimming Club
Believed to be the oldest river swimming club in the country, Farleigh is the perfect spot along the Frome to take a wild swim. Become a member to wild swim from May to the end of September.
6. Warleigh Weir
Head just the other side of Bath to Claverton and you’ll find Warleigh Weir, where you can go for a picturesque dip in the River Avon. This wild swimming spot is free to go along to, but again, we recommend always swimming with a friend or in a group and walking into the water slowly to acclimatise to the cold and have a clear route out if you need to make your way back to the bank. For more on how to get there, take a look at the Warleigh Weir website.