To celebrate the new Rivers issue of Outdoor Swimmer magazine, we asked the Outdoor Swimmer team to share their favourite memories of the rivers closest to their hearts
When we talk of river swimming we often think of big rivers and long swims: challenges like the Dart 10K, the Thames Marathon and the Bantham Swoosh are all bucket list swims for UK swimmers. But swimming is more than distance and challenge, it is playtime, setting aside our daily worries and cares, reconnecting with nature and ourselves. In the new Rivers issue of Outdoor Swimmer magazine we explore rivers big and small. 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 the new issue will inspire, enhance or reignite your love of rivers.
With rivers on our minds, we asked the Outdoor Swimmer team to share their memories of their favourite rivers.
Ella Foote, Editor
“Picking one favourite river is impossible, I have different rivers for different kinds of swims or different moods. The River Thames is reliable, deep, wide and long offering good distance swimming or longer adventures. It is where I first really embraced river swimming and will always be an old favourite. However, the River Dart holds a special place in my heart. Throughout the seasons it is a wonder. The colour of pale ale in summer and Coca-Cola in autumn and winter. Always clear, bubbling and interesting in its infant state on the moor and bigger, brackish as it meets the sea. I love the deep pools and cascades. It is where I have swam solo, with pals and with or without swimsuits! Hot rocks to lay and warm up on sunny days and eddies to swirl about in when the water is higher. You could spend the day walking and dipping and it won’t be the same again.”
Jonathan Cowie, Contributing Editor
“There is a grandeur about rivers at the end of their lives as they sweep into the sea, but I love rivers at the beginning of their journeys: young rivers, splashy and playful as they tumble over rocks and through ravines. As a child I explored the upper reaches of the Swale in the Yorkshire Dales and gazed in wonder as the young Tees crashed over High Force in Teesdale. High up in the dales and mountains the water is colder and cleaner as it leaps over waterfalls into deep pools. It has a vigour and life force that invites you to leap in too. Some of my favourite river pools are Black Moss Pot (pictured) in the Lake District, the waterfall and plunge pools on the way up to Helvellyn from the youth hostel, a secret spot on the river Mint and the deep ravine at Hawes bridge on the river Kent. Whether jumping in deep river pools or basking in the shallows of a beck, small is beautiful when it comes to rivers.”
Simon Griffiths, Founder & Publisher
“I have two favourite rivers. The first is the River Wye as I spent many hours kayaking there as a child. I remember being terrified before paddling through some of the rapids, particularly on the Upper Wye, and the huge sense of relief and achievement if I came out the other end still upright – which didn’t always happen. The current threats to the Wye from pollution linked to farming is therefore doubly distressing.
“The second is the Thames (pictured), where I now swim regularly near Teddington Lock, but which is also connected to childhood memories. I grew up not far from Seven Springs, which some say is the ultimate source of the Thames (rather than Thames Head near Kemble) and was a favourite place to visit.”
Abi Whyte, Digital Journalist
“My favourite river is the Wye, which flows through my home city of Hereford. It is my playground and it is my lifeblood. I swim in it, canoe on it and SUP on it. I sit on its banks for picnics with my children, and turn to it for solace and comfort. Every day I cross the river along the same footbridge, and it saddens me to see it looking so sickly green, with no water-crowfoot growing in thick waves like it used to, and barely any wildlife. The Wye is dying because of agricultural and sewage pollution, but I believe there is hope. Communities along this cherished river are coming together to fight for its life, and they won’t stop until the Wye is a thriving artery once more.”
Yvonne Turner, Commercial Director
“When I think of my favourite river, I think of our fun escape during lockdown. We don’t have much open water near us but we found a river near Bodian Castle. It was not particularly special other than it had a jetty and we had a people-free place for the four of us to get wet and be silly. The pics are full of us smiling and embracing the elements as a family.”
What’s your favourite river?
Have you got a favourite river or river swim? Do you love a delightful dip or a long swim with the flow? Share your favourite river swims with us by tagging @outdoorswimmer on Instagram. And don’t forget to order your copy of the new Rivers issue of Outdoor Swimmer magazine!