Kate Gillwood discovers the joys of dipping (rather than swimming) in a pond in Yorkshire.
By Kate Gillwood
Kate Gillwood was born in Galashiels, Scotland, raised from three years old in Yorkshire, found herself in London for 30 years and eventually escaped back to Scotland. She was raised to swim in rivers (the Wharfe at Appletreewick, for example), open air pools (Otley) and the sea, so open water swimming is not new. She started taking part in organised events about 10 years ago, putting on a wetsuit for the first time for the Great Scottish Swim in 2011. Now living just a few minutes from Portobello beach, one of her favourite things is to start the day with a sneaky swim in her local waters. She also likes to explore new swimming spots and share what she finds. Now that lockdowns have eased, she’s exploring again with her campervan, Clova.
Stepping down into dark water surrounded by lily pads was both beautiful and a little disconcerting. My nerves were not helped by another swimmer’s comment involving the word pike! Plus, I was somewhat on show as one of the employees at this delightful swim spot was kindly on hand to capture the moment for me.
However, once I was in, it was indeed a wonderful calm, tranquil experience. Dipping (rather than swimming) is not something I’m used to but I can absolutely see why people talk about bathing in settings like this. It felt like something out of Waterlog. Sliding smoothly through the water in this large pond was so refreshing. I could feel it reviving my body and mind immediately. The surrounding trees and wild gardens added to the freshness and I breathed in the clean air deeply while drifting on my back. I saw a white tail flick a short distance away through the trees, and realised it was a fallow deer, clearly identifiable by its spots (yes I watched Bambi when I was a child and yes I cried). This was nothing other than wonderful. I love nature and the summer smell of Yorkshire was both warming and reminiscent of my childhood.
The setting evokes pictures of stately homes akin to the Lister’s Shibden Hall. The ‘house’ looks like it may have been the filming location (I checked, it wasn’t). The baroness owner can be spotted by visitors walking the estate in wellies with a spade in hand, clearly doing actual manual work.
The gardens are truly a sight, both wild and organised at the same time. The newly opened swimming pond may well be a response to our numbers growing exponentially. The employee I referred to above was excited to escort me to the pond, a short walk through the woods. It boasts a bench, changing facilities, steps down into the water, a metal ground mat to walk on under the water in the shallows and even a channel cut through the lilies. The latter being paramount to the experience for anyone even remotely squeamish… not me of course!
This was an unexpected find and one I highly recommend if you fancy or find yourself on the eastern side of the Yorkshire Dales.
The 17th-century Swinton Estate is set at the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park a short drive from the quaint market town of Masham (pronounced masam). The numerous activities include a hotel, restaurant, spa, country club, forest bathing, wellness retreats, birds of prey, fishing, mountain biking, to name only some and 20,000 acres of stunning gardens including the lake. It is approximately 10 miles and about a 20-minute drive west of the A1(M) on the B6268 at the eastern edge of the Dales which are of course well worth a visit and hold all manner of dipping delights.
Wild swimming in the pond is available to anyone who has access to the grounds: residents, spa day guests, members, diners and folk who buy a garden pass (annual £50 per person or £5 per adult). Residents and spa day guests get the luxury of having a warm shower in the spa afterwards.
If you have any suggestions of places I could swim email me on email@example.com or find me on Instagram @swimfreedomscotland
Please also take a look at my website: www.swimfreedom.co.uk