Do I really like cold water swimming? It’s something I always get asked.
Spoiler alert…. yes I really do!
Ps scroll down to the bottom if you want to skip the bit about my cold water journey.
I realised recently I never really shared my journey about my daily dipping at the end of last year.. I decided to keep it to myself because I was going through a really tough time and I couldn’t quite put it into words what I wanted to say.
I have open water swum for over 12 years now, being a triathlete of anything over a sprint distance involves neoprene and lakes. That said, up until covid I had usually hung up my wetsuit by September and didn’t dust it off again until May time, so had a very small swimming window compared to now.
In November 2020 thats when I took my first ‘official’ winter swim… No I don’t even think I could call it that. Dip my toe, get to my knees, wait a few mins (ok seconds), get to my waist, panic a little that, I can’t do that and get out. My mindset really wasn’t there, no matter how much I tried. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.
There’s so many more stories I could share, so maybe I’ll save that for another blog. And December 2020 was when I finally managed to get fully in the water.
Anyway, fast forward to October 2022, I was falling apart, not something I shared to many people, but those who knew me.. I needed some focus, a challenge and something else to think about. I’d just bought myself a dipping tub so I could keep up the cold water a bit easier over winter so thought, one way to make sure I actually used it, was to challenge myself to dip or swim every day until New Years Day. Weirdly enough, that turned out to be exactly 100 days.
Not for a second did I ever think I would be doing sunrise ice swims. In fact, I never even expected it to get that cold, it hadn’t the last two years I’d been winter swimming.
An ice swim had been on the bucket list for as long as I’d been winter swimming. Although I can say I have ticked it off, we did have the crack the ice to get in, but it’s not quite how I wanted to do it. My true bucket list, is being in a Welsh lake surrounded by the mountains, but there’s always next year. Unfortunately I couldn’t quite justify the two hour drive for a couple of minutes dip to make it a worthwhile journey.
Why would you want to put yourself in to those temperatures by choice? Talk about a way to challenge yourself mentally and physically.
It taught me so much about myself, how much I doubt myself, hold myself back and talk myself out of things. It reminded me of a resilience I forgot I had. I’d always believed I wasn’t capable of so much.
I know it sounds very cliche, but who would have believed something so small can challenge and change you so much!
I love a solo wild swim in the sea or a lake. I love the solitude of getting in the water and the immediate calm. It’s probably about one of the only time I can say I am truly in the moment. You have nothing else to think about but the water, your breathing and your surroundings. Its like an immediate off switch to your brain, especially when you’re an over thinker like me.
It’s an opportunity to really test your comfort zone, seeing what you are really capable of in life. It’s weird, you drive there questioning yourself, doubting your abilities and that self doubt creeps in.
But it really does help you change your narrative.
Anyway, there’s a bit of background into why I wrote this blog..
Welcome to Shropshire… the most landlocked county for someone who loves water, and my biggest frustration.
So how do I get my cold water fix in Shropshire?
With a bit of difficulty if I’m honest. Unfortunately we don’t have any particularly ‘wild’ spaces in Shropshire apart from Carding Mill Valley and Boyne Water, oh and if you don’t mind swimming in the river, there’s a few entry spots on the River Severn in Shrewsbury. We also have Love 2 Stay (where photo is taken above) and Alderford Lake (which are paid swim spots). The bonus of Love 2 Stay is you get to jump in a hot tub afterwards to warm up.
I also have a cold water tub at home, which is great for what I want it to do in the winter months, especially when I don’t always have time to get to a Shropshire swim spot.
I wanted to share my top 5 swim spots.. trust me I have loads more so narrowing it down five is actually really hard, as every place I’ve swum has a different meaning to me.
Scouting out swim spots is half the fun. I’ve found some beautiful spots over the years, some are well known and some are half the fun of finding them on the maps.
So I thought I would share some of my favourite, easy to locate swim places.
Watkin Path waterfalls - I mean you’ve probably heard about these beautiful waterfalls and they’re easy to find. Park at Pont Bethania car park and head up through the woods about a mile or so, you’ll be able to see them long before you get to them.
Blue Lagoon, Abereiddi - I stumbled across this on my first trip to Pembrokeshire last year. This was a last minute booking, I’d booked it in the evening and left first thing in the morning, staying on a campsite just on the Wales Coast Path. I needed this break away more than words can describe, I was absolutely broken. I had no idea where I was or what I wanted to do, I just needed to escape. The weather was pretty rubbish that morning, but I dragged myself out for a run, the further I ran, the nicer the weather got, over the top of the coast path and boom, the first glimpse of the Blue Lagoon. I’d kicked myself for not having my swim stuff there and then.
If you’re brave (unlike me) you can jump off the cliffs in to the Lagoon.
Don’t worry , it’s accessible without having to have a huge walk along the path. You can park at Abereiddi beach car park. If you are there, I would also say, take a walk along the coast path to Porthgain, it’s beautiful.
Pobbles Bay - Again this was a little find when I was out walking some more of the Wales Coast Path. I’d headed out to visit the Three Cliffs Bay (also stunning) and I’d headed along the Wales Coast Path.
It’s a busy spot, but when you get there you can see why! It was that busy I didn’t get a photo when I was down there, so this shot is looking back at it.
I got there when the tide was in and it was crashing with waves, but great fun for a jump in the waves. I couldn’t stay in too long as JB was entertaining everyone with his ball.
I was blown away with Yorkshire. It was my first trip there this year and I did not expect there to be the amount of waterfalls. I was waiting for my friend to arrive, and the campsite I was staying at was about a mile from Ingleton waterfall trail.
This is a stunning walk, which takes you on a 4 mile walk. You do a loop around the waterfalls, through woodland, which has 5 main waterfalls, and offers stunning views of Ingleborough and Yorkshire. I was even lucky enough to see the jets flying over. Definitely keep the swim wear on as you can have your pick of dips along the way, bear in mind, some you can’t get access to. My favourite pool was by far the last one.
There’s parking onsite and it’s £10 (I believe parking is included in that price, but I’m not 100% sure as I walked there).
There are also lots of other waterfalls to explore in Yorkshire I have marked on the map, and another reason I need to go back and explore some more.
Well I couldn’t write a blog and not mention one of our swims spots. Carding Mill Valley will always have that place in my heart. It was, after all, my first winter swim spot.
Parking is free with a National Trust membership and about a 20 minute walk from the car park, which is sign posted to the reservoir.
And an extra one as I always get loads of messages about this place…
Now this is a little hidden away gem. It’s very small, but if you want a cold water fix and a swim around in circles, its great, and always very cold.
Parking in the main carpark head off to the left as though you are going around the bottom of the hill. You’ll immediately see a path to your left drop down through there and across the field. Turn right on the road and again you’ll see a gate hidden to your left. Again head straight across the field to a gate, you’ll then drop down through some woodland and some steps, when you get to the bottom turn right and there you will see this hidden gem.
As I was writing this, I realised how long my swim spot list is. There are so many beaches around Pembrokeshire, Anglesey and the Gower Peninsula I could mention for a swim as well as lakes and waterfalls.