Dawn Robinson-Walsh explores the benefits of wild swimming in Cornwall
Health gurus have long lauded wild swimming as spiritual balm. Along with forest bathing, open-air swimming is one of the latest wellbeing trends, and for good reason. ‘Green exercise’ is now where it’s at and where better to try it than in captivating Cornwall?
A daily dip in the sea can be enough to feel the benefit, but if you are a devotee, or wish to try open-air bathing at a more serious level, then check out some of the top spots listed below.
Being outdoors is mood-lifting, but wild swimming goes a step further. It is an immersion in cold-water nature at a beach, lake, river or cove, quite shocking at first, but then so refreshing and revitalising as your body acclimatises. It is as much mental as physical endeavour.
Yes, you can do it in places like Hampstead Heath Ponds, and very good it is for you, too, but it is nature at a whole new level here in Cornwall.
Things come around. Back in our parents’/grandparents’ retro day, wild swimming was common. People learned to swim (often on holiday) in lakes, the sea, or in some places like Bude or Penzance, in freshwater lidos, not often in indoor pools.
The secret is in focusing on your movement and breathing when swimming, which concentrates your mind. Living in the moment, it is your chance to switch off from the world at large, and to disconnect from all the competing demands made on you. You can recharge in the water which makes you happy by mindfully reducing stress and anxiety.
Unlike a swimming pool, there are no chemicals added like chlorine or bromine, and the only noise tends to be natural (waves, water, birdsong) rather than people’s laughter echoing around the pool. On a summer’s day, there is the beautifully beneficial heat from the sunshine rays, too. You feel at one with nature. Of course, there are physical benefits, too, such as better sleep and exfoliated skin.
Cold water triggers responses in your body and brain to increase your tolerance to stress. If cold water is not for you, hydrotherapy generally works wonders, cold or hot, so even a paddle, feeling the sand beneath your toes, or bodyboarding in the sea will bring you wellbeing.
Open-air swimming, however, is relaxingly repetitive like a mantra, pushing forward with your arms, kicking with your legs, breathing as you go. Your focus is your body, your movement. Wild swimming aids your circulation and decreases the production of cortisol, the stress hormone, leaving you feeling more balanced.
That’s the poetic side of it. Slightly more down to earth, you might find yourself in bitingly cold water if you try it in winter (so you really need to acclimatise in the warmer months) and with unpredictable currents in some places, the way forward is to choose your spot carefully and maybe go with like-minded friends or family.
Here we have some of the best, recommended wild swimming destinations in Cornwall:
Sea Pools – ideal for beginners
Safety is of paramount importance, so check out the Outdoor Swimming Society’s Guidelines here.
Ready, steady, jump in…