We woke to a frost, which seemed fitting on the first meteorolgical day of Winter. It’s also the first day of my project to swim for ten minutes in water ten degrees or less, giving £10 to Cancercare each time I manage it. Hence 10 x 10 x 10.
If you feel you can donate £10 at some point too I’d be hugely grateful, I hope to keep going at least once a week throughout the next three months and will be blogging what I discover – how to stop shivering, whether cuppa soup, chips or coffee are best to warm up with, what socks to wear when your feet feel like ice. And perhaps more philosophical questions such as why some people wear bobble hats whilst swimming in cold water and whether a Dry-Robe is really the solution to changing in a gale. All the important stuff!
I chose to start in Windermere, because it’s relatively close to where I live and I know the Lake well. It’s also serene and peaceful, has amazing views, and my swim spot is close to a great chippy. Cuppa soup will only get you so far. It also has one of the best walk ins imaginable.
The outside temperature when we arrived was just under 7 degrees, with little wind and the water smoothly luminescent, reflecting sunlight in soft sharp bursts as the sun caught ripples across the boat house and jetties.
Lots of people swim here, but on a day like today with the water smooth and calm it still feels like an intrusion. There’s also thrill at knowing you’ve committed to enter and an anticipation of how that will feel, of the cold and adrenalin and then the quiet joy and pleasure of moving through the water.
The water temperature today was between 8-9 degrees, the Lake has been fairly stable for the past few weeks, working down gradually from the early autumn where it was regularly around 11. It’s difficult to ‘feel’ this difference in your body, instead it’s easier to recognise and compare the effort expended against waves on a windy day, and the comparative ease through which you can slide through the water when it’s silky flat like today. I am a ‘heads up’ swimmer, breast stroke and slow, but that feels appropriate now, like I’m being led by the cold and it’s fun watching the Geese, the reflections, and the leaves.
As promised after 10 minutes I came out. Everyone I have spoken to tells me it’s best to get out before you need to, to listen to your body and dress quickly. It’s also important to look after yourself during ‘after-drop’ – those 20 minutes or so after leaving the water, when your core temperature can continue to decline due to the return of cold blood from your extremities.
Then followed the usual precarious mix of standing on a bag whilst trying to get clothes on with cold hands and an endorphin rush that makes you feel there’s no hurry and that you might be better returning to the water. Starting with socks, something I learned from a real open water swimmer, then layers, then loose fitting jumpers to trap air and heat and then a hat or two. All this seems a lot of fuss for ten minutes in the water, and yet as we’re ready to leave, others are arriving and vowing not to be in that long, but obviously excited to be there and gently questioning whether I’ve been in the water as I don’t appear to be ‘suffering enough’.
Over the next few weeks I hope to swim at Windermere and elsewhere in the Lakes. I hope to swim in Morecambe Bay with the MALLOWS group of open water swimmers, and to spend time with friends in a river or pool or two in North Yorkshire.
If you happen to read this, and want to come along, meet up (Covid restrictions allowing etc), or have some ideas of places to visit and swim please get in touch. I’m interested to hear from anyone with an interest in outdoor swimming, and fascinated to hear about your motivation, what you enjoy, who you swim with and why.
And, if you feel able, and have the means, I would be hugely grateful for donations to Cancercare (North Lancashire/South Cumbria). I will be blogging about their organisation, our experiences being supported by them and how all of these things come together as we go through the winter. Here’s the link to donate: