Wild River Swimming


Lock-down has been a time to sift through photographs, diaries and journals and recall far flung travelling and adventures. Yesterday, it was a short piece that transported me from my cottage in Scotland to wild water swimming in Oxfordshire.  A memory worth savouring. A memory from what seems like ‘another life’.

Sunday July 23rd 2017.

“I’m home from France and I’m keen to hold to my resolution ‘Interesting old dogs learn a new trick every week’. July’s challenge for me is wild swimming in the River Thames. I’ve been considering wild swimming for the last ten years and have always put it off with the promise, ‘I’ll do it next week, next month, next year……. When the weather is warm……’

This weekend was a family one in Wallingford. I’ve grown to love the way the river flows gently through the town before meandering onwards, through unspoilt Oxfordshire countryside, towards London. I’d packed my swimming costume, in case an opportunity arose – and it did. Late on the Sunday afternoon my daughter Jennie and I headed along the towpath. The river was calling. What a wonderful sense of excitement, freedom and magic. We found a suitable grassy bank and slid gently into the water. It was startlingly cold and, as they say, ‘very refreshing’!  At first, I was apprehensive, my heart rate increased and I kept within easy striking distance of the riverbank.  But the water was calm, with no evidence of current or fast flowing water and I quickly felt at ease. Jennie swims here regularly and I knew I was being looked after and watched carefully! I love the way roles reverse as we age, and our children grow.

As I grew more confident it was a sheer delight to strike out and swim over the dark reeds, between floating lilies, towards the shafts of sunlight in the centre of the calm, benevolent river. We were quickly joined by a nosy assortment of moorhens, ducks and swans. We floated, we laughed and splashed together and enjoyed the simplicity of mother and daughter wild swimming. What a wonderful experience.

Tonight, as I reach to put off my bed-side light, I have a warm glow of achievement. I realise I’ve finally done my first-ever wild swimming in the River Thames and this Grandma feels pretty good.’

Three years later, reading my journal, I can still feel the magic of that summer Sunday. Who knew wild river swimming would follow grandma into this future?

What a joyful memory to brighten a lockdown day.



5 Replies to “Wild River Swimming”

  1. Thank goodness for memories! Last Tuesday after lunch, as my friend and I cycled back from Wolvercote the Thames Footpath was like Brighton Beach: a topless woman in a pink turban in the river looked as if she’d been following Grandma’s headgears, families were picnicking, idiots lighting barbecues, teenagers jumping off the rainbow bridge, and the smell of pot reached our nostrils over the parched grass… This weekend though the Universal Prangster has seen to it that people will celebrate standing in beer gardens getting drenched! I shall be visiting a couple of friends, physically distant and thoroughly sanitised, and spend the afternoon bingeing on the rest of the brutal if remarkable Caliphate on Netflix. Swimming will remain a longing pro temp…


    1. It was such a delight to find the piece in my journal yesterday. Then early this morning, I woke up positive that I’d taken some photos at the time. So, at 5.am I sat down at my computer and found pictures of the Thames and the ducklings I swam with in July 2017. What a joyful way to start the day !


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