I moved to the lakes a few months ago. There were many reasons for this; firstly and largely happenstance – which is conveniently one of my life themes.. but the enticement of the environment certainly played its part.
I love nature, open skies, great views, hills to climb, fresh air, and as I’m increasingly realising I love to swim. I always knew I liked it, but I’d never really had the opportunity to fully explore this part of me. I’d always had a hankering to live by the coast; this was a secret part of me which I might mention in passing in a flippant way – not really taking it seriously even in myself.
I remember discussing it once with my brother. He seemed to relate to it, he has a dream of buying a second home in Cornwall, he’s clear it has to be Cornwall, but we talked about the realities and challenges of finding somewhere on the UK coast that’s a) not too pricey, b) is not too remote and c) is ok in the winter, many of our coastal towns have become very run down and quite rough ( I hate using that word as its laden with judgment) but I suppose places I may not always feel comfortable in. Having said that Covid has changed things, Covid has revitalized remote parts so my perception may very well not be reality.
I moved to the Lakes from Warwickshire, which is a pretty county, but flat and one of the UK’s most inland areas; not a glimpse of a lake or coast line. However not too far from me was a huge reservoir which was my happy place. That reservoir knew a lot about me,,,, I walked it on my own, with friends, with family. I walked it when I was happy and often when I was sad. That reservoir knew and felt my grief at the loss of my parents, it knew the too-ings and fro-ings of my relationships, it knew the stress of my job. It listened like a close friend, it never judged, it just provided that safe space to think, to feel, to breathe and cry.
And in answer to that well known lyric ‘ where do you go to my lovely when you’re alone in your bed?’ …. I often imagine myself walking slowly into the sea. A blue sea with gentle waves, the early morning sun shinning with its rays fanning out across the entire horizon, I walk slowly in, its the perfect temperature, I am surrounded by and feel decidedly at peace in that sea…
From a psychological view my love of the sea and swimming is perhaps slightly surprising as I almost drowned as a toddler. Being the youngest of 4 children, I was always playing ‘catch up’ – I’m sure other youngest ones can relate to this. I was always walking behind, falling behind, running behind and often left behind, those painful words ‘ you’re too young ……’ echoing in my ears.
One year, holidaying in Dorset, I followed the older ones down to the sea, my parents resting slightly higher up the beach. It was a long beach and the deep sea was a long way out, so we could play relatively safely in the shallows. One minute I did that, the next I fell and I was suddenly flailing in the shallows as the waves came in, and in and then the 7th wave turned me, washed me and threw me back into the sea. My siblings were oblivious squealing with delight as the waves had become more exciting. My eagle eyed mum was suddenly tearing down the beach and swiftly grabbed me, as I choked, spluttered and started coughing up the salty sea. I was fine, but my mum did admit years later that it could have been serious if she’d not got there in time.
So despite that early experience, from which perhaps the only remnants are a slight aversion to swimming under water, I love swimming. And this summer I have been able to follow this passion… I swim in tarns, lakes, rivers, I swim once or twice a day. I get in I sigh, I smile, I swim, I get out and I often want to get straight back in again…
I have been trying to understand why swimming gives me so much joy. We spend a lot of time in our lives working out how to avoid or to recover from the bad, or painful, I’ know that I personally have not spent enough time understanding why something makes me so happy and then seeing how I can extract and replicate this elsewhere.
I am still in the early stages of exploring the positive emotions swimming delivers and why, but here are my initial musings on the joy of wild swimming:
- Immersing yourself in water is like receiving a huge hug, every part of you is caressed, held and supported
- Temperature dependent, the water makes your skin tingle or relax
- Swimming is such a beautiful rhythmic exercise, one feels almost balletic gliding through the water
- Watching the water part as you reach forward in breast stroke is like opening up the world
- Swimming alongside water lillies and under the bough of a tree toward the setting sun, is the perfect way to connect with nature …..
- And so much more ……
Have you ever really thought about why you love what you love?