July 2023 ‘Rivers’

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For a time, I never really understood river swimming. Rivers are weedy, sometimes dirty and when I was younger I was warned to stay away from them. But when I started swimming events, I needed somewhere to train that wasn’t a pool and the River Thames became my training place.

Rivers can be wild and bubbling, wide and meandering or shallow and cool. Swimmers have shared river swims with me, special spots that became regular places of relief or play. The broadcaster and vicar, Kate Bottley once told me that the river was where you wash worries downstream and there are many swimmers who feel the same. Maybe you love a river swim, or perhaps you have been put off by recent media reports of the state of our waterways? Either way this issue will inspire, enhance, or reignite a love of rivers.

Check out the piece from The Rivers Trust about how we can help care for our waterways and learn about Yvette Tetteh’s epic 450km swim down the Volta river system in Ghana. Unsure on how best to swim in rivers? Head to our training pages. Also, in this issue we meet Patrick Barkham who has written a biography about wild swimmer Roger Deakin and I head to Walnut Tree Farm for a swim in Roger’s moat!

Enjoy the issue

Ella Foote, Editor


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  • Yvette Tetteh: The woman who does not fear
    Yvette Tetteh’s epic 450km swim down the Volta river system in Ghana highlights the environmental damage done to the country by fast fashion and the trade in second-hand clothes. By Jonathan Cowie.
  • Want to learn more about river swimming? Try kayaking
    Whether learning how to find the fastest flow of water or avoiding hazards unique to rivers, Simon Griffiths suggests trying kayaking to learn more about river swimming.
  • The slowest of journeys
    Author of The Slow Traveller Jo Tinsley on how adopting a slow travel mindset has inspired her travels by water
  • Swimming in rivers: how dangerous is it?
    Conservation experts The Rivers Trust report that only 14% of rivers pass good ecological health, while no rivers pass good chemical or overall health. We asked The Rivers Trust – is it really that bad to swim in a river?
  • Swimming in rivers
    Having an understanding of how water moves in rivers and how to use that to your advantage will help you in any river swimming races you do and boost the fun of your recreational swimming. Simon Griffiths has your guide to river skills training.
  • Pants vs shorts
    Do you favour sleek, quick-drying, performance-focused trunks, jammers and budgie smugglers or the modest coverage of swimming shorts? Jonathan Cowie and Joe Minihane weigh up the pros and cons of pants vs shorts.
  • Move of the month: Thoracic spine extension
    This is a move that helps stretch and mobilise our shoulders, increasing their range of motion. Vivienne Rickman is your guide. This move is a stretch that helps mobilise our shoulders, increasing their range of motion. This thoracic spine stretch also gives the lats a long stretch and you will feel your triceps getting a stretch too.   Equipment needed  A bench at the gym is ideal for this move, but you could use a coffee table or chair at home or anything at a suitable height to get into position.  An exercise mat.  How to do a thoracic spine extension Variations  For a greater stretch on the lats, hold a mobility pole in your hands to keep them slightly apart.
  • Listen out for underwater sounds
    Whales and dolphins aren’t the only underwater sounds to listen out for on your swims, try tuning into the rasp of water shifting small stones, the scratch of aquatic insects and even the sound of oxygen bubbles being released by plants as they photosynthesise.
  • Lido guide: Sea Lanes Brighton
    Author of The Lido Guide Emma Pusill heralds the opening of a brand new 50m open air pool – the long-awaited Sea Lanes Brighton.
  • How to plan a river swimming route
    A long and lazy river swim under the dappled light from riverside trees is a quintessentially summer pastime. Jonathan Cowie has your guide to planning a safe river swimming adventure.
  • How to choose prescription goggles: our experts put six to the test
    Whether it’s clearly sighting a course, deciphering the lido clock or simply enjoying the scenery, having the correct prescription goggles is an essential part of your outdoor swimming kit. Simon Griffiths has your guide to the best goggles on the market, plus expert optometrist advice on how to make the right choice for you.
  • How to calm first event nerves
    Signed up for your first swimming event and feeling nervous? We share some top tips for overcoming those pre-event jitters.
  • How do I stop feeling dizzy when swimming?
    Dizziness is a common issue with swimmers who are transitioning to front crawl, but how can you adjust your head position and stroke to make sure it doesn’t impact your experience? Swimming coach and Olympian Cassie Patten shares her advice.
  • Go with the flow
    Rivers have a beginning, middle and end – maybe that’s why so many of us love a river swim. Ella Foote shares her river story.
  • Common Minke Whale
    Susanne Masters introduces us to the Common Minke Whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata), a ‘small’ whale that reaches 8-9m long.
  • Cheese and onion sandwiches
    River dips in the Swale in what felt like an endless summer. Jonathan Cowie shares his memories of river swimming.
  • Best open water goggles
    Polarising lenses with UVA/UVB filters for open water, anti-fog protection or a soft cushioned fit: whatever your priority when choosing a new pair of goggles, we’ve got you covered.
  • Best jammers, briefs and shorts for outdoor swimmers
    Whether you’re after a flexible fit for training, thermal fabric for core warmth or a lightweight hybrid short for impromptu dips, we’ve got you covered with our guide to the best jammers, briefs and shorts for outdoor swimmers.

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