People say I’m crazy, but I love swimming outdoors. Preferably in a lake, or a river, or the sea. It might be a bit chilly, or muddy, but nothing beats slipping into cool water somewhere beautiful. It never fails to make me smile.
Most Sundays I get up at silly o’clock and drive to lovely Gosfield Lake in Essex. In winter, when there is frost on the ground, and sometimes ice on the water, I sit by the lake in my van and consider turning around and driving home again. But then I remind myself I survived last week. In fact, I loved it. So I strip down to my swimming costume and head for the little jetty.
Stepping in and taking those first few strokes is always a challenge. But once I’m in and swimming, ah the bliss! Nothing beats that immersion in soft, cool nature. All my stress and grumpiness dissolves away. I swim, and breathe, and enjoy the colours and the birds. When I’m ready to get out, I can’t stop grinning. Then it’s cosy clothes, a hot drink, a chat with friends, and a cake or a bacon roll. I can’t wait for next week.
Swimming outdoors is joyous. I can’t recommend it enough. You don’t need to be an especially good swimmer; even a paddle or a little dip is wonderful.
If you want to give outdoor swimming a try, please be mindful of safety. Avoid swimming alone, use a tow float, and research your location carefully. There are plenty of outdoor swimming groups and places where you can swim with others. The excellent website of the Outdoor Swimming Association is a great place to find advice and information.
I wrote a little poem inspired by last Sunday’s swim. I hope you enjoy it.
And I’m in
Into the cool green silk,
Light as I lift my feet
Dipping my face, finding rhythm,
Breathing out bubbles.
Gaze into sea glass colours –
Silvery sun-warmed surface
Shading to khaki deep.
Kick and stretch
Pause to rinse my goggles,
Toes wriggling into warm mud –
Soft mother’s touch.
Across the lake, yellow irises,
And the great grey heron
Watching like an old man
From his spot among the reeds.
A crested grebe pops up
Two geese honk bossily overhead.
Slipping through flowing fluid
Mist on my vision
At the furthest buoy, a cuckoo
Greets the May blue sky.
Striking back towards the spiky pine,
Sweet salt scent of bacon wafts deliciousness.
I raise my eyes, and see,
Weaving over the water,
Summer’s first swallow.
Karen Lawrence is an author and mother of seven living in Billericay, Essex, United Kingdom. Karen has published two books and is currently working on three novels, including one about outdoor swimming.
Letting the Light In: How A Baby With Down Syndrome Changed My Life is Karen’s personal account of having a baby with Down Syndrome. It is available from Amazon at
Karen’s first book, Finding Your Calm Space: Thirty-One Ways to find Calm in a Crazy World is available from Amazon at https://www.amazon.co.uk/Finding-Your-Calm-Space-Thirty-One-ebook/dp/B08NZ1W9QY
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