Swimmers and their connection to Wild swimming. Blog #9 LuAtKeswick
Lu Smith lives in (funnily enough) Keswick in the stunning Lake District in the north of England. She is a mixed media artist and has produced a book of 25 funny sketches of wild swimming situations that all wild swimmers will recognise.
I grew up by The Wash in Norfolk, and in adulthood, after some moving about, settled in the Lake District around 23 years ago, so I like being around bodies of water. I wasn’t much of a swimmer though; it wasn’t something that came naturally to me.
In my 20s, I realised that even my extremely poor swimming provided me with a kind of meditative stress relief (which was needed at the time) and started to indoor swim pool swim on a regular basis, joining the 80 + year olds on their early morning sessions. There were no scary boys, dive bombing, and when one elderly lady tried the deep end for the first time in her life, I was inspired to join her.
Fast forward to moving to the Lake District, and with increased confidence, I found there was often a hot, balmy day when slipping into the clear cool water of Derwentwater was the best thing to do. But, at that time, swims were just something added on to other activities, like canoeing, rock climbing, or running round the lake.
Something changed in the summer of 2016, and I’m going to blame Facebook and a large portion of FOMO.
Life had changed and previous outdoor activities didn’t seem so important, but seeing others posting pictures of themselves having a lovely time was…irritating.
Cue a repeat of a previous conversation with Di, my friend, and partner in crime. We had had this conversation a few times in the past, notably about running. It always went like this: ‘why do those nutters do (insert activity we didn’t do)?’ ‘I dunno. I just can’t (insert activity)’ ‘I know, I’ll do anything, but I’m never going start (insert activity)’. Within a month of said conversation, we were in fact, participating in said activity. And so it was with wild swimming…even on days when it wasn’t hot and balmy.
Fitted out with wetsuits appropriate for gentle, heads up breaststroke from Pete at Swim The Lakes in Ambleside, we were in the lake every chance we got. We were soon joined by Tina. There was never competition, we were always chatting, and a swim was always followed by a lakeside sketching session and a flask of something.
I do live in a stunningly beautiful part of the world, which brings its own pleasure, but there is nothing like the feeling after a dip in the wild. I had previously HATED having my photo taken, but never had to fake a ‘Swim Grin Selfie’. Any kind of stress, anger, fear, grief seems to be temporarily allayed by floating weightlessly in cool water, chatting with your pals, and those endorphins last well into the rest of the day.
Keswick, despite appearances, is small community, and we often meet people we know, doing the same thing, including local Swim Guide, Suzanna of Suzanna Swims, and swap stories. We’ve found recurrent themes, usually amusing, and I started to add line drawings of the different scenarios to my sketchbook. I now have enough to produce a whole series of Swim Stories Books, so watch this space!