Calum Hudson is one of the Wild Swimming Brothers. Together with Jack and Robbie, he have planned some incredible experiences including swimming the Maelstrom, long distance swims in the Arctic Circle and channel crossings. Here, Calum gives his top seven tips on planning a source to sea river journey.
Now this is the most important part, your adventure should mean something to YOU! Don’t worry if it’s not a well known river, don’t worry if no one else has swum it, don’t worry about the length or size. Pick a river which you have a personal connection with. Your story and the reason you want to swim it will resonate with like minded people and will be more fulfilling and memorable than an arbitrary river. Has anyone ever swam the longest river in your county before? Perhaps you’d like to do a bridge to bridge swim or a cross river swim, get creative and make it personal.
Now this is probably juxtaposed to the common perception of an adventure, with images of faraway mountains, polar ice caps, treacherous channels and famous rivers and lakes, but I would advise you to stay local. Put down Lonely Planet and look at your local rivers to find a waterway near you, perhaps the river nearby where you grew up, the longest river in your county or the river nearest to your house. Why? By choosing a nearby river you will immerse yourself in your local environment and see somewhere very familiar from a totally different perspective.
Get out there and tell people about your river adventure, this can range from telling the local swimming club to spreading the word through local press and beyond. First step, set up a twitter account, and start tweeting about your plans, follow your local swimmers and swimming clubs. You’ll be amazed at the positive response you’ll get. For our River Eden swim we’ve had local people offer up their gardens for lunch spots, elderly couples offer us hot mugs of coffee at the end of the day and one man has offered to come down and swim with us and bring us his prize winning Cumbrian cheese. It’s these little gestures that go a long way to making your grass roots swimming adventure truly memorable.
Don’t get me wrong Google Maps is great but my advice would be to get an OS map of your local area and trace the course of your river the old fashioned way. Theres something about opening up a huge map on the table, tracing the route of the river with your finger and following the contour lines and landscape as it changes. This will bring you closer to the adventure on a visceral level and allow you to visualise the point to point nature of your swim. Also, big maps are just cool!
This point is key to ensuring that you keep local people, farmers and landowners on side. Who actually owns a river? Can I actually swim the whole distance? Where can I get in and out? What should I do if I encounter a fisherman? All these questions can be answered by googling ‘Riparian Access’. My advice would be to be humble and polite at all times, approach local landowners and angling associations and inform them of your plans, giving them a heads up will work wonders and most people will be extremely positive about your plans, after all, they most likely love the river as well. In the case of disputes swim past quietly and always stick to the opposite bank to any fisherman. Lets give outdoor swimming a good name and build this attitude into your river adventure.
Any good adventure is about the journey along the way, not just the challenges you overcome but most importantly the people you meet. Invite people to join you on your river adventure, whether its just for a quick dip or a whole days swim, having people join you will not only be great for your morale but also be a fantastic experience you and them. If you can inspire even one person to come along and join you then thats a fantastic thing and really what an adventure is all about. We’ve got 10 swimmers from the OSS joining us and I can’t wait to learn from them and share the adventure.