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Wild swimming: “It’s a bit like calling lawn mowing wild vacuuming.”

So says Tom Cox in The Guardian. It can easily be argued that ‘wild swimming’ as a concept is ridiculous, meaningless and rather revealing of our modern relationship with the natural world.

Perfect For:
getting wet, getting in touch with nature, free exercise, endorphin-releasing exhilaration
Port Eliot house, St Germans; Respryn river near Lanhydrock; Trevaunance Cove, St Agnes
PL12 5ND
late spring, summer, early autumn
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The implication is that:

1. Tame swimming exists: grannies breast stroking in Cath Kidston cozzies, no heavy petting

2. wild=crazy, whacky, potentially dangerous, out there

3. wild animals may be present, these presumably are fish and the occasional passing dog

With reference to 2) I would agree that one of my swims was, indeed, potentially dangerous. Otherwise, yes the term is a redundant media spin on swimming outside, so let’s call it sea swimming, river swimming, loch immersion, estuary bathing, tootsie donking, get-yer-kit-off-and-leg-it-in swimming, but not wild swimming please Kate Rew, Daniel Start.

So to get a taste of swimming in the outdoors, the latest sporting fad that splashes in the face of over-priced gyms and axed subsidies for the elderly and under-16s at local pools, I jumped into the Respryn river, the St Agnes badland waters and the Port Eliot estuary during last month’s festival. Here is the lowdown:

Respryn river

Location: opposite the sumptuous Lanhydrock House. Park in the National Trust car park complete with Kelly’s ice cream van, turn left out of the car park, over the bridge and take the next right through a kissing gate. Follow the river (over a wobbly new wooden bridge) for about half a mile until you reach an island. Get changed using the island as cover and wade in.

Comments: crystal clear waters, sunbeams dancing down to the river bed on a sunny day; swim up the rapids for a real workout (like being on a tread mill but much better); head to Lanhydrock café for a warming cup of tea and a hefty piece of cake afterwards.

Port Eliot Festival wild swim in the estuary

Location: self explanatory

Comments: hurl yourself off the bank into murky muddy depths, surprisingly warmer than they look. Swim over to the mud flats for a mud fight or an all-over body mask and dive back in again to wash it off. Join the quirky crowds trying to shake off prosecco-induced hangovers form the night before, splashing around in a backdrop straight out of the BBC’s next costume drama.

St Agnes Slippery Eels

Location: Trevaunance Cove, lifesaving hut, summer Monday evenings at 7:30pm. Earlier as it gets darker.

Comments: My opening gambit:

“Is it ok if I join you guys?”

“Yep but hurry up cos the slower ones need to go in first.”

They skipped off as I tugged on my wetsuit (not strictly wild swim gear) and ran down to the beach. But there was no beach, just waves smashing where the beach should have been. And they had disappeared, little heads, bobbing over the waves, out to the buoy. I piled on in after them, how hard can it be? I swam, front crawl, no good, waves too big, breast stroke not going anywhere, slight panic as the waves pushed me around like a big school bully, only I had nothing to appease them. No lifeguard. People staring, the panic set in, a wave flung me up and down, my chest tightened, I began to worry about getting out and that was it, I’d had enough. I humbly admitted defeat and fled back to terra firma, only to glimpse the Slippery Eels swimming butterfly relays out near the buoy. These guys are hardcore, be warned.

Verdict: ditch the chlorine and the dirty changing rooms (ominous hairs stuck to shower floors), embrace your inner cheapskate and give a big watery hug to Mother Nature for she is all powerful and all-giving.

The Good Cornwall Guide takes no responsibility for the actions and consequences of anyone choosing to swim in the waters mentioned above. Always best to go with someone.


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Wild swimming: “It’s a bit like calling lawn mowing wild vacuuming.”

Top Quote:“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

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  1. Jonathon Jones

    Try wild swimming in the ‘sea creek’ at smugglers, river Fal. TR2 5NG

    Sep 16, 2011 @ 11:13 pm