Having not left the confines of the M25 and only having swum in London’s outdoor swimming venues for six months, with a cool but sunny day forecast, it was time to head for a little wild swimming adventure.
Deciding to take the guesswork out of my normal hit and miss method (looking on maps for a shade of blue and heading there on a whim) I bought myself (no freebies even for us) a copy of:
The book is full of walks that are a day trips a train ride from London, with other editions including Cornwall, Devon and Scotland.
The great thing about these walks is that it’s a great day out for both swimmers and non swimmers alike.
On this occasion 2 of my flat mates and, in the process of being converted to cold water swimming, girlfriend eagerly joined the adventure.
Just 45 minutes from East London this 11 mile walk looked perfect. They also supply a shortened version of the route which tops out at about 6-7 miles for those crunched for time.
Along the banks of the River Chelmer, we were blessed with perfect conditions: sunshine all day long, but with cool air to ensure we didn’t over heat.
Being the first time I had used one of these books, the directions were spot on. Crossing beautiful fields, streams and woodland there were only short bursts on roads, before joining the river for the last few miles.
It was however hilarious to hear the other three, all of whom are Spanish, grapple with some of the very English instructions.
“What’s a hedgerow? What’s a thatched roof? What’s a ditch?”
A walk and language lesson in one.
What I loved was the variety that this walk threw up, with points of interest and plant life noted on the walk.
With three river swimming spots to choose from, the great thing is that they were positioned in the last half of the walk, meaning if you should be going in with a wetsuit as I did on this occasion, you don’t have to lug it all the way round the remaining miles.
As for the swim, I chose to swim the mile or so between the last two marked spots for a well earned dip.
The water was still cold at this time of year, and it remained deep throughout. I was just blissfully happy to be in some water outside of London.
The river barely flowed, meaning it’s great if you are not such a strong swimmer, with plenty of entry points to choose from.
On the almost perfect spring day we did see a lot of people on the river on paddle boards,and many novices. So I would definitely recommend a tow float on this swim to stay visible.
I used my Dry Bag/backpack to pop my shoes and clothes in to save my fellow walkers from having to become my mules.
The one thing that did worry me was the water quality, as I did have a slightly funny tummy after, although no saying this was due to the river and not the copious amounts of sour skittles I consumed.
Remember you swim at your own risk and always perform your own risk assessments before swimming anywhere.
At the end of the swim you pass by the picturesque Ulting church which provided a perfect photo opportunity.
Once out it was about another hour walk, which helped me warm up and we were back on our Merry way to the big smoke. All smiles and full of skittles.