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Diary of a Wandering Swimmer – Yorkshire Lily Pads

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.

The Swim

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 Location

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. 

Contact me

If you have any suggestions of places I could swim email me on k.gillwood4@gmail.com or find me on Instagram @swimfreedomscotland

Please also take a look at my website: www.swimfreedom.co.uk

Read more about my swims

A clear sweetie

A bit Wuthering Heights

Clova returns

Yellow tangs from a lava field

A rope swing to the past

An urban gem behind a sea wall

Jumping trout in the wind

Highland Adventure Part 1

Highland Adventure Part 2

Waterfalls of tea

Less skipping and more colour

How to swim 8m in 15 minutes

Storms, floods and a shallow lagoon

A year in open water from lochs, orca trails and sea pools to the stacks of St Kilda

A weekend of clarity

A swim spot that can’t be named

Moon channel

Getting a confidence boost on my home beach

In the wake of an orca

Discovering neuks and crannies

Imported sand, piscinas naturales and a pool to myself

Swimming in the shadow of a famous castle

‘Sunny Dunny’ home of the red cliffs and long lost lidos

Where the land is low and the water bulls are loud

Lakes, mountains, poets and a bit of running

Last swim with a friend

Sweeping views, menacing swans and a rich history

Clear water, abandoned submarines and pink footed geese

Famous for oysters & surrounded by mountains

Where the crabs are blue

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Outdoor Swimmer is the magazine for outdoor swimmers by outdoor swimmers. We write about fabulous wild swimming locations, amazing swim challenges, swim training advice and swimming gear reviews.