Dive into the wild

Swap biki­nis for wet­suits and en­joy an in­vig­o­rat­ing break, says Francesca Gosling

Rossendale Free Press - - Travel -

WITH the loom­ing prospect of Brexit send­ing hol­i­day prices sky-high, it is no sur­prise that Bri­tish hol­i­day­mak­ers are giv­ing in to the lure of stay­ca­tions.

The UK is home to swathes of gor­geous coun­try­side, fairy tale vil­lages and breath­tak­ing moun­tain­sides wait­ing to be ex­plored, and one trend tak­ing on a life of its own is open-wa­ter swim­ming.

With no ex­pen­sive or bulky gear re­quired, it of­fers a new ad­ven­ture with min­i­mum travel has­sle – and it’s guar­an­teed to burn off a few calo­ries.

“The only limit is your own imag­i­na­tion,” says Gabby Dick­in­son, founder and di­rec­tor of Gone Swim­ming (goneswim­ming.co.uk).

A pas­sion­ate wa­ter baby from An­gle­sey, she built her wild swim­ming tour com­pany five years ago after notic­ing a gap in the mar­ket for peo­ple who want a thrilling na­ture ex­pe­ri­ence, but with­out the camp­ing.

She now takes groups of four to 12 – in­clud­ing cou­ples, kids, grand­par­ents, pets and peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties – for swim­ming days around the most beau­ti­ful beaches and lakes in North Wales.

And every trip comes with gen­er­ous sup­plies of her ex­cel­lent home bak­ing.

“I wanted to go on a swim­ming hol­i­day but there was noth­ing avail­able that I wanted to do,” she tells me.

“So I in­vented a trip where you can eat lots of cake, stay in cosy places, and just have a nice time.

“I ask my guests what kind of day they have in mind, whether it’s swim­ming in a cool moun­tain lake, near a wa­ter­fall, through the trees or in the sea, and I make it hap­pen.”

The sense of free­dom that comes from the brac­ing wa­ters, she ex­plains, has lim­it­less re­wards – even when it comes to men­tal health.

“A lot of my guests are re­cov­er­ing from or com­ing to terms with men­tal health prob­lems and there has been a lot in the me­dia about the ben­e­fits of swim­ming.

“I was di­ag­nosed with de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety at 16 and al­ways felt bril­liant after I had been in the wa­ter.

“Some­times I meet peo­ple who are ner­vous or scared, but once they get in their eyes light up and it builds their con­fi­dence; they feel they can do any­thing.

“The best part of my job is be­ing in­spired every day by in­cred­i­ble peo­ple, who don’t know how in­cred­i­ble they are un­til they swim across a lake.”

With those words I can’t re­sist the chance to have a go, start­ing with a morn­ing plunge into the waves at Black Rock Sands beach, steps away from Haven’s (haven.com) cosy car­a­vans at Greenacres Hol­i­day Park, Porth­madog.

After a gen­tle hour of seafront yoga – which I am now con­vinced is the only way to do the down­ward dog – we steel our­selves for our first steps into the Ir­ish Sea.

At a late sum­mer wa­ter tem­per­a­ture of 16 de­grees, it’s not easy, but it’s ab­so­lutely worth it.

Once in, I’m in­stantly in­vig­o­rated and pad­dle back feel­ing a mil­lion times lighter – and def­i­nitely de­serv­ing of some cockle-warm­ing with Gabby’s tra­di­tional Welsh bara brith tea loaf and se­ri­ously choco­latey tif­fin cakes.

For our sec­ond swim we drive through the rolling, Lord Of The Rings-es­que hills of the stun­ning Snow­do­nia Na­tional Park to Llyn Di­nas; a glassy-still ex­panse wall-pa­pered with the strik­ing craggy land­scape of the fa­mous Snow­don. It’s an en­tirely dif­fer­ent and very peaceful ex­pe­ri­ence. Just a few min­utes sim­ply float­ing in the se­cluded 15-de­gree rain­wa­ter-fed oa­sis makes me more re­laxed than a day sweat­ing on a busy beach – and the sense of achieve­ment af­ter­wards is de­li­ciously sat­is­fy­ing!

Group days out with Gabby and the Gone Swim­ming team start from £65 per adult and £55 per child (with pri­vate op­tions avail­able) and prices in­clude trans­port to lo­ca­tions, guided swims, wet­suit hire and chang­ing robes, swim hat to keep, plus snacks and hot drinks.

While you can safely swim in many lo­ca­tions around the UK, Gabby rec­om­mends avoid­ing rivers as the cur­rent can of­ten change much more strongly and fre­quently than you might think.

Never go swim­ming alone and al­ways check weather and cur­rents be­fore you dip.

Francesca dip­ping her toe into the world of wild swim­ming

A Gone Swim­ming break in Wales will take you to some re­mote and ex­cit­ing places

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