Observations From The Riverbank #3

Posted by Matt Heason on Feb 01, 2021

All of a sudden it's the third monthly instalment . How time flies.


If you missed instalments one and two here they are.


As I write this there are currently 80 flood workings on rivers around the UK. For most of the las month the Derwent, the river I dip in every day, has been in spate. For about 48 hours it threatened to break its banks and flood the lower levels of the village. This happened the year we moved here (2007) and then again in 2019. It was inches from flooding this time around, but even the thought of it happening again so soon stressed out a lot of residents. On a more positive note the residents pulled together to ready for the flood and whilst the mood was tense there was a real feeling of community.


Even though the river level has been high it's always been possible to find spots to get in safely; eddies and small stream tributaries.


It is colder than ever. It feels like black silk in the water, electric bright when you get out.


Birds! They’ve come back with their morning song. Still no kingfisher, but a dipper skipped by along the surface a couple of mornings back.


The high water has changed things. My descent route down the bank is now six inches further from the river, there are fist sized stones, polished round, tangled into the exposed root bases of the tree where I sit.


Maybe as a safety precaution with the level so much higher, I have dipped alone less than usual and opted for the company of another. Times are tough so it's been good to share. 


Last week we organised a live talk on Zoom for 400 with Rachel Ashe about Mental Health Swims. You can watch it here if you're interested. Actually, tonight we have another live talk scheduled with Ed Accura, co-founder of the Black Swimming Association (details here)


Finally got to swim in the snow properly. It’s hard to describe just how cool that is.


I've had a number of conversations with folk who say that they'd never be able to do it, that they'd never warm up again. I'm not going to try to convert, but all I'd say is that it's not a skill, it's not difficult, it's just a bit of practice. Like Couch to 5km, I suspect that in years to come physicians will be prescribing Couch to Cold Water in incremental steps as essential activity. 


As well as my morning routine dips I quite often swim whilst out for a run. Occasionally these are unplanned, but more often than not I know in advance that I'll stop for a dip. At this time of year it pays to think ahead just a little. I take just three things with me that I might not otherwise have on a regular run: A pair of thick mitts, a small towel and some spare underwear! I will usually be running in a thin pair of gloves. I try to get undressed out of the wind so that when I am getting dressed afterwards I am also out of the wind. I take my clothes off in the reverse order of the order in which I will get dressed shoes, socks, tights, top layers, hat, thin gloves. After the dip I first dry my hands and face / head before put on the thin gloves and hat. I then towel my upper body and put on at least one, if not two, upper layers. Next (sorry to the squeamish) it's off with the wet swimmers and on with dry pants. I give my legs a quick dry with the towel before sitting on it. I then dry one foot with a sock, put the sock on, and then put that leg into my tights (it goes in much more easily with a sock on), and repeat with the other foot. Then on with the shoes and waterproof. By now my hands are pretty cold so I take off the thin gloves and put on the mitts and I'm off. Within a few minutes I'm warm again.


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