Recording my first experiences with saltwater swimming got me thinking about my first experiences with freshwater swimming. These days I take it for granted that I can swim in beautiful creeks and waterholes when I'm bushwalking in the National Parks around Sydney, but opportunities were more limited when I was growing up in England. Or, at least, I thought they were until I started following the activities of the many Wild Swimming groups in the UK.
Pennington Flash, LeighCopyright by Margaret Clough. Licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons. (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/)
When I was in my early teens and living in Lancashire, a group of us used to go swimming in Pennington Flash during the summer. Flashes are lakes formed by the flooding of areas of coal-mining subsidence. These days, Pennington Flash is a pleasant country park, but when we swam here it was still a wasteland of slag spoil heaps and dumped rubbish. I doubt that the water quality was very good. Still, we survived.
This was my introduction to freshwater swimming. I can't remember swimming in fresh water again until I was in my twenties and living in Ambleside, Cumbria.
River Rothay at Waterhead, AmblesideCopyright Gary Turner. Licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons. (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/ )
When I was living and working in a hotel in the Lake District at Ambleside, I used to swim at the mouth of the river where it flows into Lake Windermere. I'd walk down from the hotel across Borrans Field and swim in the river near the ruins of the Roman fort. Although the water was quite cold (it was Spring), the days were usually sunny and the river was clear and beautiful.
Hampstead Mixed Pond
Copyright by David Hawgood. Licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons. (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/)
A couple of years later, I was living in London. It was a particularly hot summer, and the ponds on Hampstead Heath were absolutely wonderful to swim in.