Come on in the water is lovely
Getting wet and wild in Wilts - we take the plunge with Rob Fryer to get the skinny on wild swimming
It's hot, it's sweaty and in land-locked Wiltshire the sea is miles away…. So where exactly can you go to take the plunge and cool off?
Rivers right? Wiltshire is riddled with them… there are fords, lakes, weirs, pools and everything else in between…
What better way to cool off than a dip in a sun-warmed, fresh water river. To float under the sun, under the sky, under the branches of trees far away from the in-door, chlorine choked, crowded municipal concrete pools.
Diving into the River Frome
So what's stopping us? Well for a start a cursory Google search on 'River swimming' will unleash a hellish Pandora's box of reasons of why jumping into your nearest river is close to suicide.
It's too cold, you'll drown in the fast flowing current, you don't know how deep it is, you'll be mowed down by a motor boat and if all that doesn't stop you mid-plunge there's Weils Disease….
Transmitted by rat's urine, can it get any worse?, Weils is the waterborne river disease that's guaranteed to have the most foolhardy of people heading straight back in-doors
So is it really that dangerous? Is diving into a local swimming hole as dodgy as being a costume clad extra in Jaws?
At the Farleigh and District River Swimming Club, just a short flip-flop drive from the outskirts of Trowbridge, swimmers have been taking the plunge into the River Frome for the last 70 years.
It was here, waist deep in river water, that I caught up with wild swimmer Rob Fryer.
Rob has taken to the waters all over the country and in his swimming guide, Rob's Directory of Cool Places, has charted hundreds of wild ponds and rivers where it's safe to swim.
So who better to get the skinny on wild swimming (and just in case you were wondering it's not done in the skinny) and find out exactly what it is:
"Well for a start wild swimming is definitely not tame swimming," says Rob. "All that chlorine and concrete stuff. It's swimming in rivers and lakes and anywhere natural.
"I wild swim because I like the countryside, I like the beauty of it and people are coming back to that now."
But with water quality issues and the possibility of Weils Disease, wild swimming is risky, isn't it?
"There's always risks in life generally and obviously there's more risk if you're in a river or a lake.
"But the actual dangers from the water, those sort of risks, are actually less than the physical danger of say getting cold. There's a lot of talk about Weils Disease but the swimming risk of Weils is really only a very minor part, it is a risk, but it's a minor part of the risk."
So for a wannabe wild swimmer what's the best advice?
"The best advice is a lot of caution. Always wear footwear, go with somebody who's done it before and go to a place where a lot of people swim."
Ready to take the plunge
And where would that be in Witshire?
"Well, there's Keynes Country Park. Enough people go there so it can't be stopped. A lot of people in Lechlade, just north of Swindon, go to the riverside car park and walk upstream to the footbridge. Lots of people swim there.
"Figheldean is very, very good. It has nice fast-ish, deep water. And just outside Houghton at Stockbridge there's an old ford, 2-3 feet deep with lovely clear water, that's great for slightly older kids.
"Even right in the middle of Salisbury there's a place by the Old Mill at Harnham. And at the Langfords, between Steeple Langford and Hanging Langford there's a small place with a picnic area."
So why do you enjoy Wild Swimming so much?
"Well, the strange thing is that it's actually quite a spiritual experience. If you do it, I think, you'll find yourself communing with nature."
For more information on Rob's Directory of Cool Places, The Farleigh Hungerford River Swimming Club or wild swimming safety click on the links in the right hand column.
last updated: 04/12/2008 at 11:52
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