It seems there is a current craze amongst those longing for a little bit of adventure. I'm reading all the time that 'Wild Swimming' is becoming more and more popular and I for one have also taken the bait. It's the chance to immerse yourself in the natural environment, to be physically connected to the natural world and to see your surroundings from a different level – a duck's eye view!
I have always been fascinated by water and have been known to accidentally on purpose fall into rivers and ponds whenever I can. Although I now spend most of my days floating on the surface I have an incurable desire to see and be beneath.
Pretty much from day one we have felt it is very important for Jasper to learn to swim. It's partly the safety aspect but also there is so much enjoyment gained from swimming we never want him to miss out on that. We have taken him to swimming lessons and three and a half years on he is a very confident capable little boy in and around water. Although he can't quite support himself yet he thinks nothing of being in any depth of water, any temperature and is happy to spend a surprising amount of time underwater. So with this in mind I have been in search of a relatively local river in which we can spend an afternoon together swimming and splashing with nothing but nature for company.
Cotswolds bound we set out on one of my very rare Sundays off with vague directions and a huge picnic. Somewhere between the village of Swinbrook and Burford was supposedly the perfect spot to swim, so on arriving in Swinbrook we sought out a parking spot, picked a footpath in roughly the right direction and shouldered the picnic. Weighed down with what felt like most of the contents of our house in a less then subtle red bag and a duvet slung under my arm (We couldn't find the picnic rug) we set off at a crawl through the village looking like a family of refugees. It was a perfect hot british summers day with bright blue skies which turned Swinbrook into one of the most beautiful quiet little Cotswold villages I have ever seen. Picturesque, immaculately kept, a pub and a small but stunning castle like church with the St George cross flying in the breeze.
After a short walk through the village we were out in fields in a direction heading away from the river! We were getting hot, the kitchen sink was digging into my shoulder, it was time to stop for lunch. In a shadeless cow field we ate our picnic, sweated and discussed how we were going to get to the river. If the path was going to reach the river it would be too far for Jasper's little legs and Emily supporting her ever growing bump not to mention the picnic which didn't seem to get any lighter no matter how much we ate so we decided to head back to the car and drive on.
Halfway to Burford, along a tiny overgrown road a break in the hedge revealed the spot we had been looking for. A bend in the river, a deep pool shaded beneath drooping willow branches which flowed towards a fast flowing shallow gravel section gleaming in the sunlight. This was the spot, as perfect as it's description had been. Screeching to a stop, reversing into the cloud of dust we parked up on the verge and found a path leading towards our watery goal. It was ideal. Emily sat reading her book comfortable on the duvet aka picnic rug while Jasper and I swam and splashed in the shallows, diving into the pools and floating with the stream. We spent a couple of hot happy hours totally immersed in our watery activities, swimming wild with nothing but trees and birds overhead and fish darting below. The location couldn't be better, well worth the journey, worth lugging the heaviest picnic ever across a field, worth sweating for, getting lost for. It was a family adventure and something we plan to do much, much more of. We are so lucky in our country to have these little natural gems, they are out there all you have to do is explore!
The map (left) shows the location of our swimming spot, enjoy but don't tell too many people!