Bathing with Selkies: Wild Swimming in England’s Lakes, Rivers and Seas

Bathing with Selkies: Wild Swimming in England’s Lakes, Rivers and Seas

we may no longer rely on it for our survival in the way
of our ancestors, water continues to draw in humans. For many of
us, it is no longer a main source of food, nor do we need to defend
our shores – and yet summer upon summer, we flock to the beach in
our droves. Much like how candlelight coaxes more intimate
conversation around the dinner table, water holds a primal allure,
reminding us of wilder times in our collective past.

I think that even among the most frequent of cold-water swimmers
there’s a sense of trepidation as layers of wool, down and fleece
are peeled back to reveal pink flesh – quickly covered in a rash of
goosebumps – and ankles wrapped with the indents of discarded
socks. And concerned the dipper should be; plunging into
near-freezing water, whether an ice bath or the ocean, should be
approached with a healthy dose of common sense and respect for

However, as with many things that nudge the limits of the body,
the effects of submersion can be transformative and even addictive.
Tiptoeing awkwardly through mud or hopping across shingle, there’s
always a moment of doubt that flashes through my mind when the
water first laps around my feet – maybe today’s not the day. But
the battle is half won by that time. I’m already in my swimsuit
(probably in full view of some poor dog walker) and there’s nothing
for it but to slowly make my way in, and try to remember to

Read the full article in Volume 30:
The Health Issue.

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