One of the main things I missed during lockdown was getting in the water and going for a swim in the sea.
Obviously I know we are still technically ‘locked down’ but since restrictions have eased slightly, we’ve been making the most of it by getting in the water as much as possible! I think when you live in Cornwall and have to put up with our long miserable winters, we definitely do still appreciate being by the sea when summer finally does roll around, but this year even more so.
We definitely won’t ever take it for granted, that’s for sure!
And I am of course aware of our privilege to live so near to the coast in the first place, knowing full well that not everyone is nearly as fortunate, which has made it really hard to keep up with posting here on the blog recently! Until I posted about BBQs last week it had been over a month since I published something… which is probably the longest dry spell in The Cornish Life history 😬.
A lot of my readers are based in cities and currently aren’t able to come and visit Cornwall, so it’s been hard to strike a balance between sharing ‘inspiration’ content while making sure I don’t come across as oblivious/tone deaf/insensitive/braggy etc.
I always want this to be a place where I can share my adventures in a positive way that excites & inspires people, so I will keep doing what I’m doing for now and hopefully keep up the motivation to do so during this weird time!
Anyway, what is wild swimming?
As you probably can guess by the name, wild swimming refers to swimming outdoors in nature – usually in the sea, lakes or rivers. Obviously if you’re just referring to swimming in the sea, I’d probably just call that ‘sea swimming’ (or if you live in Cornwall, just ‘going for a swim’!), but the ‘wild swim’ term encompasses other bodies of water too, and is a bit of a buzzword at the moment so thought I’d use it in this post anyway.
It’s totally legal to do as long as you’re not on somebody’s private land, but it’s important that you know you can actually swim there safely. Whilst rivers and lakes may not have the same currents, waves and tides as swimming in the sea, they have their own risks and dangers so definitely do your own research before you go.
A misconception about wild swimming is that you have to go in just swimwear (ie. a bikini, swim shorts, costume etc.) because a large part of the whole concept is being close with nature etc. I always see photos of people looking all natural and chilled out going for a wild swim in just a bikini – which looks cool and whimsical – but mate, the Atlantic ocean is COLD 🥶😂. You can totally still wear a wetsuit and call yourself a wild swimmer!
Also, if you’re not the world’s best swimmer and you want to just have an enjoyable splash about taking it easy, don’t be embarrassed to bring some kind of floatation device, like a small bodyboard…
Yes, I’m mainly saying this to myself.
If you want some cool wild swim vibes and inspiration, definitely check out Sophie Hellyer’s ‘Rise Fierce’ wild swimming movement on Instagram.
Why wild swim on Cornwall’s South Coast?
You can of course wild swim anywhere but I’d recommend Cornwall’s South coast vs. the North coast on most days. Obviously the weather, tides, and swell fluctuates but as a general rule, the North coast is usually a bit rougher and wavier (perfect for surfing) and the South coast is usually more still and better for swimming (with places like St. Ives often being an exception with still, sheltered waters, and the coast around the Lizard/Porthleven being another exception as the currents here are often too dangerous to swim).
Definitely check Magic Seaweed to see the forecast of where you want to go, and do some research online first.
When there is a larger swell, or there are strong rip currents, it can get very dangerous to swim. If you want to swim at a lifeguarded beach, always stay between the red and yellow flags (check out my full post on beach safety here), but at the moment because of the COVID-19 lockdown, most of our beaches are not being lifeguarded, so it’s better not to attempt it if you’re unsure.
Where are the best wild swim spots in Cornwall?
Now always remember I am a South Cornwall girl (different to ‘south coast’ vs ‘north coast’ – I mean I don’t often go further Newquay/St. Austell for exploring!), so I can’t speak to the many beautiful destinations that North Cornwall has to offer.
But, I definitely prefer the sea around Falmouth for swimming in, as it’s quite sheltered and usually pretty still. Or of course, you can try one of Cornwall’s stunning rivers – the River Fal or Helford River. These are my favourite places to wild swim, because they are truly so peaceful and have a really magical feel about them.
I’m not going to share any exact locations in this post, but hopefully that gives you an idea of the rough area. If you want a really brilliant location-based guide to wild swimming in Devon & Cornwall, I highly recommend the Wild Guide book* – a must have for any wild swimmer!
Do you love wild swimming? Leave me a comment with your favourite place!