Kendal Mountain Festival: our highlights

Editor Ella Foote looks back on her weekend hosting talks and film sessions at the Kendal Mountain Festival, alongside British ice swimmer and open water swimming expert Colin Hill. She also made time for a dip or two, of course. 

My weekend at the Kendal Mountain Festival started early by hosting a panel with Every Body Outdoors, a team of women who are fighting to make the outdoors more accessible for plus size people. Their mission is to tackle systemic issues around size inclusivity in the outdoors movement. We discussed kit, ill-fitting clothes, and judgement from others; being fit and fat and celebrating each area of the outdoors. 

Even though my main focus for the weekend was to attend Kendal Mountain Film Festival, it feels like such a long way to go just to spend all your time in a town – so I always make a special effort to get out and about for a day. This year, I joined Suzanna Cruickshank, who runs a swim guiding business in the Lakes you may know her as Suzanna Swims. She guided us on an amazing river swim down into Derwent Water, where we spent a leisurely hour swimming in 10ºC water and had some serious shivers after. But it was worth it and we felt in safe hands with Suzanna. 

It was also great to meet up with Contributing Editor, Jonathan Cowie. Since moving to the Lake District Jonny has set up a regular swim for men, and I joined his Blue Mind Men swim on Sunday morning. It is a chance for people to check-in emotionally and enjoy time together. There was a lovely, welcoming vibe and bond between the men, which in a female dominated interest was lovely to see.

Co-hosting the Outdoor Swimming session

Sunday afternoon I co-hosted the Outdoor Swimming session at Kendal Mountain Festival with British ice swimmer and open water swimming expert Colin Hill. The best thing about this session is the variety of swimmers we feature – everyone from short distance dippers to marathon swimmers – and also the people who come to watch.

I loved interviewing 16-year-old Eliza Radclyffe, who was so nervous but very entertaining when discussing her Dee Mile victory. Jasmine Harrison told us about how she swam the length of the UK by eating Snicker bars and not really doing much planning at all. I also caught up with marathon swimmer Sarah Thomas; we squealed about jellyfish and celebrated her two-way North Channel swim she completed this summer. We also heard about freediving in the Lake District, litter picking from the bottom of all the lakes. 

My favourite film of the weekend was not swimming related, but so inspiring. It was about a European-Arab team of women trekking to the North Pole. You can see a trailer here.

Kendal Mountain Festival is one of my favourite dates in the calendar. It always ignites ideas for my year ahead and it is a great chance to meet swimmers and explorers. I love the way all sorts of outdoor experiences are covered and all sorts of people are celebrated.

If you missed the Kendal Mountain Festival this year, you can still watch guest speakers from the world of outdoor swimming and adventure, plus watch a selection of films in the comfort of your own home with a choice of online passes.

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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.