Last time in the Journal I explained my strategy for making sure I get up from my desk and get outside, each and every day. My Something Wild experiment is as simple as taking a photo, outside, every day, for the whole of 2017. And then posting it on instagram.
I am now over 60 days into the challenge and I thought it might be nice to delve a little deeper into the story behind just one of these daily photos. Welcome to day 35 and a dip in the ocean…
I know what you’re thinking: day 35, that’s only the…
…starts counting on fingers and toes…
…4th of February. As in the second month of the year. When it’s still cold outside and all sensible people are wearing scarves and coats. Who would want to go swimming in the sea on the 4th day of February? You would not be alone in that thought.
Imagine, if you will, the sight of a poor bespectacled man hopping from foot to foot on a stony beach, trying valiantly to introduce himself into a tight rubber wetsuit. Your first thought is – quite rightly – to approach that man and to say “You’re not going in there are you?” while nodding at the gently lapping waves. Now imagine what would be more worrying: finding out that he is, indeed, about to enter the beckoning briny sea or that – no – he has no intention of going anywhere near the water. Why then, you may think, as you edge nervously away from him, is he getting into that ill-fitting rubber suit? What, you may wonder, is he up to? And do I have to go back past him again in order to get off of the beach?
Luckily, I was about to go swimming, so you avoided that worrisome wondering about my motives. Instead, I can chuckle, shrug my shoulders and say: Oh, it’s not as bad as all that; it’s actually quite pleasant in there.
And it was.
As you can see from the photo above, the sun was shining and it was an incredibly mild day for February. Even as I struggled into my wetsuit, my wife was striding into the waves in only her swimsuit, and even she found it to be far from unpleasant.
Back to the beginning
Our introduction to wild swimming – or, swimming somewhere that is not an indoor swimming pool – came last September when we volunteered at the Dart 10k event. This is a 10 kilometre swim down the river Dart, here in Devon, from Totnes to Dittisham.
As an introduction to the world of wild swimming, it was excellent: both inspiring and, also, mildly terrifying. The challenge of this type of event – something that seems, on paper, to be quite straightforward – was brought home to us very quickly and I take my slightly soggy swimming hat off to every single person who got in the water that weekend. We came away incredibly impressed and with a new resolve to get out there and to get swimming ourselves.
Over the next few months we slowly started our wild swimming adventure. From joining a local group for a – literally – breathtaking swim in the woods on Dartmoor, to going for a moonlit swim in the sea off of Teignmouth, we have enjoyed many new experiences since deciding to take the plunge (pun very much intended). We hiked across Dartmoor to a disused quarry, where a pool of water awaited us, only to plod all the way back again when we decided the howling gale was not conducive to a safe swim. We have found new beaches along the Devon coast that we had never visited before, and reacquainted ourselves with old favourites.
And, by swimming in the sea on a reasonably regular basis, we have been able to maintain a fairly good tolerance for the nippiness of the water. That “Ooh, I wouldn’t want to go in there” feeling just disappears when you go often enough.
We are still new at this and we are still learning about the world of wild swimming. There are many more awkward encounters with random strangers while in various stages of undress to be had. And it’s all great fun.
My work is inspired by the landscape around us and anything that gets me out of my seat and in to the open air is both good for me and, at the same time, inspiring. I have no doubt that the experiences I gain from splashing around in the water will seep into my work in different ways.
And in the meantime, I get to go swimming. In the sea. In February.
I know! We must be mad.