Claire swimming in the river

Wild Swimming in the River Dart

I’ve dabbled in wild swimming for a few years but hvaing babies kind of got in the way. Last year though, I started to make a real effort to go out and get myself wet. We are so lucky where we live to have amazing rivers and beaches for swimming yet I’m ashamed to say that this was my first dip this year.

Conveniently forgetting lockdown, I have been beating myself up for not getting out in the water sooner. I have a wetsuit, so the water being cold would have been fine, (well manageable anyway!) But actually the lockdown, combined with the complete shutdown of my ability to think meant that I would have struggled to go. 

Things came to a head recently, both at home and work, and my anxiety and low mood has turned into a full blown depression episode. Signed off work, I felt very unwell. I was regularly falling asleep on the sofa and could only manage to do the bare minimum at home. 

But a couple of weeks ago, on a Wednesday I was having a good day. Spending the afternoon in a good friends garden was a thoroughly restorative experience and I felt able to do some stuff. We have been talking about needing to do more stuff as a family, particularly having more adventures so I made packed some snacks and when Big Girl came home from school we headed off to the river for an explore. 

We found a little secluded area, with deep enough water and while the kids dug in the sand, climbed a little cliff and played with rocks, I stood and breathed. I watched the light on the water. I listened to the sound of the river over the rocks. I watched for the ripples on the surface of fish coming up for insects. I followed the jagged flight of a dragonfly across the surface. Those breaths felt like the deepest breaths I had taken in weeks. I exhaled pandemic, black lives matter, work, homeschool, and all the other stuff that has happened this year. 

I just had to get in. I had no swimsuit but a bra and pants is just like a bikini right? It was fricking freezing, but I went in. Well, I spent several minutes inching my way in, psyching myself up for the cold. But once you’ve gone in up to crotch level there’s no point stopping is there?  I eventually got in, concentrating very hard on breathing and making sure my heart didn’t stop, and I only stayed in for a minute but it was wonderful. 

Something about the immersion in water, especially outdoors, feels so good. And that feeling lasts for hours. My mind felt clearer, my body ached from the cold rather than stress and my mood was lighter. 

An added bonus was the good giggle I had when I tried to dry myself on a spare pair of pants from the rucksack and how it felt to go home underwearless, like a child who’s fallen in a puddle. 

Since that day, I have swum in the sea a couple of times too. And each time, it has felt amazing. Doubly so, that my small people have also started to embrace my love of the water. 

I need adventure and excitement in my life. And as we currently can’t head off to anywhere exotic, we have agreed that we will rediscover the amazing adventures that we have on our doorstep. So watch this space for more mini adventures, swimming and everything else that Dartmoor and South Devon has to offer. 

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