Have you ever been wild swimming? For this I mean swimming usually in a lake or pond (rather than a swimming pool or beach). I think the wildness comes in when you do this in the UK – especially when you don’t do it in Summer! This September I joined Secret Adventures on their wild swimming adventure at the West Reservoir Centre in Hackney:
*Full disclosure, I received entry for me and my sister for free, in return for this honest review*
Wild Swimming with Secret Adventures
We were greeted by the host inside the West Reservoir Centre building. The central space was certainly impressive – I’m not sure if they used to use this building for pumping the water, but it retains loads of interesting original features. The centre is just up the road from the Castle Climbing Centre, a 10 minute walk, or short bus ride from Manor House tube.
An impressive space!
First things first… we had to sign our lives away naturally! If you can’t swim, then you can’t take part in this activity (but are welcome to stay for food and drink). So the disclaimer covers this, your emergency contact information and the rules of the event. If you any medical risks then you may not be able to participate and they recommend life buoys for those who may have seizures. Oh and everyone gets a *sexy* swim cap…. these are bright red in colour and a requirement so that the lifeguards can spot you in the dark waters.
They recommend that you enter the water slowly to avoid cold water shock… this is when you involuntary gasp for air when in cold water and may fill your lungs with water if you are under the surface…. However I’m much more of a ‘let’s get this over with’ type of person, so when the lifeguard said it was OK to jump in, I knew what I was going to do!
So instead of slipping down the pontoon into the water, I did a running jump off the end, where the water was deeper:
And what’s the verdict you ask?
It was less a swim and more like a polar plunge!
Well it was certainly cold!!!! Whilst the air temperature was a nice 20+, 17 degrees in the water feels more like 10 degrees! I surfaced after my jump and gasped for air and instantly got my arms and legs moving to get me out of there!
My sister, being a LOT taller than me, touched the bottom of the reservoir when she jumped in. Now given that this is wild swimming what that means is that her feet went into the layer of mud a that has accumulated from the plant material at the bottom of the reservoir. A little creepy if you weren’t expecting it, but we’ve swam in lakes before!!
We swam over to the sloped pontoon to exit the water. Yes we literally spent 5 minutes in the reservoir swimming from one pontoon to the other! (Did I mention it was cold?!)
Then slipping our way up the algae covered pontoon we managed to escape and wrap ourselves in our towels. Then we headed inside, where the warm air of the changing room was bliss!
The Centre is fully kitted out with showers, lockers and changing rooms. The lockers require change (and it eats your money), so we took advantage of the bag drop outside under the watchful eyes of the Secret Adventures team to store our handbags.
A quick dry down and change later (they recommend you bring warm clothes for afterwards), we were ready to explore the next part of the evening:
After the swim
Heading to the other side of the building from the swimming we saw 2 campfires going and also a bar and food stall. First things first, when we saw mulled wine, we had to have that!
Then I spotted marshmallows and specially carved toasting sticks!! They really do think of everything here!
The marshmallow toasting a great idea – and having everything ready and prepared for you was perfect!
So having had dessert first…. and warmed up from the mulled wine and proximity to the fire, we headed back to the bar for more drinks and also to check out the food. (nb food and drinks were not included in the event, only marshmallows are provided by Secret Adventures).
The food was meatballs and mash provided by Melter Meatballs, and boy was it good! Just the right kind of comfort food you need for an Autumnal evening.
We ate our food and finished up our drinks in front of the fire. Note that both the bar and the food stall take card payments, as you are a bit of a walk to the nearest cash point.
It wasn’t late when we left, but it felt like we had been there all evening. I left happy and smelling of wood smoke, feeling like I had been back at a Girl Guide camp of my youth. (The last time I’d felt like this was camping with Flash Pack in Finland in the summer!)
Well I wouldn’t recommend planning to do a lot of swimming if you aren’t used to cold water / wild swimming! The temperature of the water was a ‘balmy’ 17 degrees…. which meant that lots of people who obviously do this kind of thing a lot, turned up in wet suits… (Even they didn’t stay in the water all that long though!)
I enjoyed my wild swimming dip or ‘polar plunge’, but I definitely enjoyed the drinks, food and fire afterwards. This is a great thing to do with a group of friends, or just people you want to bond with. Sitting around the fire with mulled wine and toasting marshmallows is lovely.
And finding a calm quiet spot in the middle of London is priceless. I enjoying communing with nature, even if that was a cold experience this time!
Would you take the plunge and go Wild Swimming?