“At Kirkby Lonsdale that afternoon, a hot wind ruffled the blanket of Virginia creeper on the walls of the Royal Hotel by the town square…I swam down past the town parkland, then in faster water that surged through giant dark–grey boulders towards the stone–arched devil’s bridge.” Two bikers scoff bacon butties on the dry–stone wall, their beards ruffled slightly by a light breeze. Grabbing the rucksacks from the boot of the car,… Read More

“I arrived in the mid–morning on an enchanting south–facing grassy hillside, swooping down to the riverside through a sheltered little water meadow almost within sight of the old castle at Farleigh…There wasn’t a soul about; everyone was at work, but I had been told to help myself to a swim anyway.” The path stops dead about a mile out of Trowbridge. From here on, it’s a case of nestling as close as… Read More

“I passed through the elegant ironwork gateway of the Henleaze Swimming Club and straight into the 1920s. The lake shone like a river by banks of weeping willows and well–kept lawns dotted with little groups of sun–bathers. It was long and deep, as though it flowed between the canyon walls of the old quarry.” The dark clouds reflect my stinking mood as the train pulls into Bristol Temple Meads. After the impish fun… Read More

“I began the day with the nearest thing to a spa experience still available in the town…an early dip in the classic Sandford Lido, opened in 1935 when open-air swimming was at its height…I had the satisfying experience of being first in, diving into the smoothness and swimming a whole length alone.” Sandford Parks Lido is a seething mass of people as we push through the turnstile and stop at the bubbling… Read More

“Next morning in cloudy Cirencester, Betty, the lady at the turnstile of the heated outdoor pool, took my £2 as I crossed the little river on an old iron footbridge…I hastened into the deliciously soft, warm water and set about swimming my mile.” Tom and I are very much among company as we hand over £4.50 each and walk along the side of Cirencester Open Air pool and into the breeze block… Read More

“Earlier, we had all picnicked on Mothecombe Beach together, to the west of the estuary, and Mike and I had swum in the bay. It was a Private Day at the beach, which meant that only bona fide local villagers from Holbeton were allowed access.” With the River Erme to our left and the tide rising, we make our way quickly down to Mothecombe Beach. It’s Sunday, a public day, and so… Read More

“…the estuary was all too real and none too warm, as I swam across it on the rising tide two days later…I had crossed to the centre of the wide bay from Coastguard’s Beach. A little group of surfers clustered waist deep, waiting for the big grey rollers that surged out of the open sea, breaking on a sand bar.” The sun is up as Tom cautiously steers his Jag down the… Read More

“I also visited the charming village of Chagford, fed by the River Teign, with an outdoor cafe. It is fringed with trees down one side and – the last thing you expect to see on the edge of Dartmoor – a vigorous hedge of bamboo.” Summer has returned to Dartmoor by the time we arrive at Chagford. The passing showers have fled out to sea, leaving blue skies, the perfect adornment for… Read More

“On Thursday afternoon I went with my friends, under oath of secrecy, to a bathing place where the Dart is joined by an unusually cold moorland torrent. We will call it the Sherberton Stream.” The West Dart behind us, we drive up through Hexworthy, past the resolutely shut local boozer and on to the the hamlet of Sherberton. The next stop on our Dartmoor tour isn’t nearly as cut and dried to… Read More

“A cold dip in the West Dart River by the stone saddle bridge at Hexworthy came along just in time. I threw myself into a deep pool just upstream, gasping at the shock, and swam down into the stony salmon–haunts below.” Four days of cooling sea swims in Lyme Regis have steeled me for the cold waters of the West Dart. The river appears on our right, crashing over rocks as Tom… Read More