Wild Swimming

I recheck the bag, ensuring I have everything. Diluting juice (squash) in a jam jar, a flask of boiling water, towel, extra jumper, hoody, gloves, hat (not any hat, but my Live Deliberately Hat), boots. I am wrapped up and ready. I head to the car; it reads 23 degrees. It is time to head off; I dive into the car.

As I navigate the twists and turns over to Linlithgow, the nerves are kicking in. The worries making my heart sink. What will it be like? Will I be ok?

What if I panic? What if the people aren’t friendly? What if I am the only one with lumps and bumps? I had only told my husband the night before that I was going to do this.

He had his concerns.

I pull up and check my phone. I am 10 minutes early. I surreptitiously people watch.  Is that the lady I had texted and arranged to meet? With 2 minutes to spare, I take a deep breath and head to the meeting point.

There are two ladies, Yvonne and Clare, smiling brightly as they chat. They look at me, offering a warm welcome.  It is time to walk to the site.

As we wander down the country path, the viaduct overhead, my heart is racing. Those initial fears come flooding back.  I remind myself; I can go home at any moment. 

We get to the site, and I am shown to a patch of grass, my changing room—time to take the plunge and strip off to my swimwear. No-one gives me a second look; each person caught up getting themselves organised. All my body worries disperse in an instant. I pull on my Live Deliberately beanie, my neoprene boots and gloves and take a deep breath.

It is time to dive in. 

Creeping to the water’s edge, everyone passes me words of encouragement. It is time. I dip a toe in. Surprisingly, it isn’t as cold as dreaded, I later find out it is around 13 degrees Celsius. I edge forward. Before I know it, I am waist-deep.  Yvonne reminds me to go at my own pace. There is no pressure. I can get out any time. Clare snaps a pic of myself and Yvonne, my guide, from the shoreline. As she is taking it, I take the plunge and go shoulder deep. I am all in.

Yvonne suggests we head for the island. It did not look too far whilst I was on land, but suddenly it felt a million miles away.

I could not get into a proper swimming rhythm; my body would not obey. But little by little, my breathing relaxed, my muscles started listening to what I wanted, and I edged closer to the island. Yvonne reminded me I could turn back at any time. She constantly reassured me.  She believed in me.

Eventually, we drew parallels with the island. It was right there. I had made it!

Now, it was time to swim back! We chatted a little. It was nothing like pool swimming. You do not have the same regular markers, so progress feels slow. But you make progress, nonetheless. 

Around 15minutes after edging in, I slowly edged out. I had done it. I had swum to the island and back. Yes, my legs were now like lead weights. Yes, my swimming technique had been terrible. But I had done it. 

I headed back to my wild changing room and wrapped up warm, and texted my husband to let him know I had survived. The jam jar of hot diluting juice tasted fab. I had done it. I had swum to the island and back. Then, as other swimmers started getting out, they chatted away, praising my efforts and helping my confidence soar. 

I came home buzzing, on an endorphin high, and jumped online, ordering a wild swimming buoy and fabric caps.

I even jumped online to share my tale with friends, no longer worried about what people would think. I know without a doubt I will be taking the plunge again, and I am happy to let others know.

Carol Murdoch runs Love Outdoor Learning, an outdoors education provider based in West Lothian but working all over the country. She also writes a great blog. https://loveoutdoorlearning.com/blog/