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Wild Swimming

Take the Plunge: Why Wild Swimming is this Summer’s Biggest Trend

Liberty breaks down everything you need to know, and all you need to bring, if you decide to dive in
By: Harriet Brown

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By: Harriet Brown
Take the Plunge: Why Wild Swimming is this Summer’s Biggest Trend

Take the Plunge: Why Wild Swimming is this Summer’s Biggest Trend

Liberty breaks down everything you need to know, and all you need to bring, if you decide to dive in

By: Harriet Brown

It’s a summer’s day in England, and you find yourself standing on the precipice of a vast, tree-lined lake: toes squidging into the mud as the cold water laps at your feet: goosepimples on your bare skin despite the sunshine. You’re bracing yourself to take the plunge, wondering why on earth you thought wild swimming was a good idea. But then, you dive in…

Or rather, you tiptoe. Even in summer, UK waters aren’t exactly balmy. Nevertheless, as more and more people are discovering – there’s something magical about outdoor swimming.

The alchemical combination of nature, movement and community , topped with a hint of gleeful daring (especially in the cold) has seen wild swimming become the hottest - or rather coolest - pastime around, with legions of new swimmers heading for open waters every year .

Take the plunge, and carry your essentials in Liberty's Raffia Tote

Since 2020, The Outdoor Swimming Society has seen its membership grow by over 36%, and in May the government designated 27 new wild swimming sites across England.

As a result, a community of likeminded water lovers has emerged: groups of women merrily chatting as they swim – whatever the weather – then sticking around for a coffee after, or pally triathletes, finding there’s more to swimming than speed (you won’t see a diving kingfisher in the gym).

If you need more convincing: Harry Styles is a fan – allegedly spotted braving even the chilliest of temperatures in London waters.

Counting lengths in a chlorinated pool versus a leisurely swim around a lake are as disparate as they come. Not only is wild swimming a fast-track to connecting with nature but, as afficionados will tell you, the practice has innumerable benefits for body and mind alike. Trial studies have found outdoor swimming can benefit cardiovascular fitness, immunity, recovery and mental health. In 2022, 94% of respondents to a survey by The Outdoor Swimming Society said the main reason they swam was simply “joy”.

Perhaps it has something to do with slowing down in our busy world (taking an iPhone into a lake is not recommended) , the thrill of achieving something a little daring, or simply the unerring hilarity of seeing yourself in a swimsuit and bobble hat (we told you: it gets cold).

Whatever it may be, at Liberty: we’re fans.

One note of caution if the summer months have you tempted to take to the water: it’s a safety-first situation. Waterways can be unpredictable and diving into a random body of water is absolutely not recommended.

Happily, there’s an ever-growing number of lakes and reservoirs where you can dip your toe under the guidance of experts, with safety boats on hand and water that’s tested for cleanliness before every swim.

The Serpentine and Hampstead Ponds are the most famous (with the latter rumoured to be favoured by Mr Styles), but there are swim spots hidden across London: from the Royal Docks to Beckenham Palace Park.

Once you’ve found your lake, we’ve compiled a list of Liberty essentials to take with you when you take the plunge.

From beaches to lakes, rivers and reservoirs: you'll find wild swimming locations from Lambeth to the Lake District

The Liberty Guide to Wild Swimming

The Swimwear

Even in the height of summer, wild swimming in the UK can be a chilly business: but if you ask us, that’s all the more reason to ensure your swimsuit is designed to bring a little joy as you take the plunge.

Many people will wear wetsuits if the water is below 18 degrees, but if it’s warm enough, or you’re feeling brave enough, to wear “skins” (swimmer-speak for wearing just a swimsuit) opt for a one-piece for a little extra warmth and pick a bright colour so you stand out in the depths. Beyond that: the choice is yours!

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The Swimming Essentials

For a pastime that’s all about connecting with nature, you���d be astonished how much kit you can end up taking with you. First there’s the obvious: SPF, a fluffy towel for when you get out of the water and a capacious bag to hold your swimming kit.

Then there are the things you didn’t think of: a picnic rug and sunglasses so you can lounge around post-swim and a flask of tea or coffee to help you warm up.

For the cold-blooded: a bobble hat, warm knitwear and maybe even a blanket to ward off the dreaded “afterdrop” – the phenomenon by which you’ll feel much colder around 30 minutes after you get out of the water, even when the weather and water feel balmy.

The Post-Swim Pamper

This process actually begins before you enter the water with one simple thing: a hair mask . While lake or river water won’t damage hair in the same way chlorine does, that doesn’t make it any more appealing as an addition to your haircare routine. So, a hair mask it is. Lather through your locks pre-dip, right after you change into your brightly coloured swimsuit, to protect hair from the sun, as well as anything lurking in the depths…

On that note, no matter how clean the water is, you’ll be needing a shower after wild swimming. Opt for a clarifying shampoo and conditioner, as well as a revitalising body wash to add an extra bit of zing to the post-swim buzz – oh, and you’ll be needing a wash bag to keep it in of course.

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