Wild Swimming Walks Peak District

Swim adventures in the soaring landscape of the Peak District

Matt Heason

Matt Heason, Founder of Sheffield Adventure Film Festival, shares five favourites from his new book.

I’ve always been a fairly avid cold water dipper. During the pandemic I started to make it more of a regular thing. I was lucky enough to live next to the river Derwent in the Peak District. In Nov 2020 a few friends and I challenged ourselves to swim  or dip every day for the month. December 1st came around quickly enough and I carried on my routine. All the way through the winter and into the following year. Aside from a couple of cold showers when I had no access to water I managed every day for a whole year. Whilst many of the dips were in the river by the house I also widened my exploration. When Wild Things Publishing asked me if I’d be interested in writing a guide to Wild Swim Walks in the Peak District I was thrilled with the idea!

Then came the fun bit. Poring over maps, Google Earth and Strava I plotted 28 potential walks incorporating a range of rivers, lakes and waterfalls, many of which I’d never previously been to. With a growing team of willing volunteers I set out to recce each one, photographing, researching, describing. It was an absolute delight, to get to know where I live so much more intimately at the same time as covering a lot of miles and getting in the blessed cold water a LOT.

Here are five of my favourites – all areas that I’d not previously explored.

Dovestones

Although the swims on this walk are fab it’s the unique rock formation of The Trinnacle that you will most likely remember. There’s a photo of me jumping from one horn to the other in the book which seems to go down well with people. The walk itself feels fairly wild and out there, high above the reservoirs. I really enjoyed spending a little time at the end of the walk sitting in the memorial wood contemplating and just being, with fine views back over the walk we had just done.

Black Cloughs

One of the more adventurous walks in the book. It’s really more of a scramble. There are three Black Cloughs. This route goes up one and down a second, but if you have time on your hands there’s scope to explore more. Short and sharp is how I would describe it, with more pools and waterfalls than you can shake a stick at. Finding your way from one to the other half way through the walk is tricky, but don’t despair as they are pretty close together and it really doesn’t matter whether you are exactly on route, as long as you are enjoying yourself.

Mermaid’s Pool & Kinder Downfall

Though I’d been up on Kinder dozens of times in the past I’d not taken this route up. Passing the now famous Kinder Reservoir (site of the annual Kinder Reservoir Trespass every April) it begins benignly enough, but soon enters the magical world of a fairy brook, with bubbling pools and tumbling falls. The way is tricky so don’t embark if you aren’t sure of foot, but the rewards are rich. Persevere onto the summit plateau and you’ll experience the majesty of the Downfall itself, and pass by one of the park’s many Mermaid’s Pools on your way down.

Matlock Swoosh

A unique entry in the book, this is both a walk and a half hour swim-float down the Derwent. Choose your day wisely though as after lots of rain the water level can be high and spicy! The Derwent is a notoriously cold river thanks to the water having sat in the three reservoirs at its head for some time, before beginning its 150 mile journey to the sea at Hull (via the Trent and then the Humber), so unless you are seasoned to cold water you’ll definitely want a wetsuit for this one.

 

Matt Heason

Packhorse Bridge & The Goyt Valley

Picturesque and quiet, the Goyt Valley is fairly well off the beaten track by Peak District standards. The bridge on the front cover is modelled partly on this one and also the one at Three Shires Head, only a few miles away as the crow flies). The swim spots are very much quaint dipping spots so don’t expect to get many strokes in, but if you have the time to sit and soak in the bubbles you’ll not miss the exercise.

 

Wild Swimming Walks Peak District leads you on 28 adventures in the soaring landscape of the Peak District. Find secret waterfalls, remote lakes and sparkling river pools. Complete with photos, maps and practical guidance.

Matt Heason is a travel writer and photographer, who grew up in rural north Wales and moved to Sheffield in 1996 because it had great climbing.

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Matt Heason