Outdoor Swimming Etiquette
Using the water is a huge privilege. And part of this is the responsibility of knowing that your actions may affect others. Think about other water users such as those fishing along the shore, boaters or nesting birds and other wildlife. It costs nothing to be polite and helps everyone enjoy the water together. For anglers in particular, keep a good distance allowing them space to cast, and if passing by in a river, be quick and quiet so as to not disturb the waters.
It’s also important to consider who owns the land, or if a popular swim spot has residents nearby, as these people may be directly affected by swimmers using that location. Things like parking sensibly so as not to affect local residents, taking away any rubbish (yours or otherwise) and not making huge amounts of noise to keep the peace, are simple starting points. Even if met with hostility, try to remain courteous. Show your gratitude for being able to swim there, and if there is any way to help with an issue, please do.
As a wild swimmer, you are entirely responsible for your own safety. Be cautious and swim responsibly, staying aware of other swimmers, water users and wildlife. Awareness is incredibly important in the water, whether that’s to the changing conditions, the shifting of the tides or the movements of others in the sea. The conditions in a place can change rapidly, and as well as being aware, it’s always good to plan ahead and check weather, tide times, local maps, and any other variables that can be reasonably predicted. And most importantly, know your limits. Conditions that one swimmer may feel comfortable in, could be seriously dangerous for another. If in doubt, don’t get in.
Swimming with someone else is a simple way of increasing safety, as you can look out for each other and assist if one swimmer runs into any difficulties. Plus, it’s good company! If you prefer to swim alone though, it’s always advisable to let someone know where you’re going, and stick to recognised spots with good access.
Protect Your Playground
We are incredibly lucky in the UK to have an abundance of natural spaces, which we are free to use and enjoy. Even in our cities, parks and green spaces are common and offer a chance to reconnect to nature. Protecting these spaces goes hand in hand with enjoying them, so please make sure to leave a place in the same state (or better than) you found it in, leaving no trace.
Try not to disturb habitats or wildlife. Remember that this is their home, and you are merely a visitor. A guest. Avoid trampling vegetation, or intentionally moving rocks or any other land features, and beware of the local wildlife populations. Seals are usually playful, but can become territorial during mating and breeding seasons. Steer well clear of nesting birds during the spring, as well as any otter sites or fish spawning grounds.
One of the joys of wild swimming is the chance to be completely immersed in nature, leaving behind the human world. Passing by in silence, disturbing nothing and leaving only ripples behind you, is one of the purest manifestations of this feeling.
For more information and safety tips, check out the links above or visit The Outdoor Swimming Society website, for a wealth of guidance.