Come on in, the water's fine! Top 5 outdoor swims in Norfolk
PUBLISHED: 16:08 10 July 2019 | UPDATED: 16:25 10 July 2019
It's the perfect season for a spot of wild swimming in Norfolk's rivers, and local wild swimmer Imogen Radford rounds up her favourites places for a dip...
"When you enter the water, something like a metamorphosis happens…." That's how Suffolk-based writer Roger Deakin described 'wild swimming' in his 1999 book Waterlog. It's true - swimming in the county's rivers certainly beats the chlorinated humidity of the local pool. Sure, it's chilly, but that's part of the thrill as any wild swimmer will attest, and as of 2019 there are over 50 wild swim groups across the UK.
As well as the endorphin rush, outdoor swimming offers physical and mental health benefits - last year the British Medical Journal published a report linking freshwater swimming to reducing the symptoms of depression.
According to Dereham-based Imogen Radford, a regular wild swimmer and member of worldwide community the Outdoor Swimming Society, now is wonderful time to swim; the water's warmer and the school holidays are still a few weeks away, meaning less crowds.
Outdoor swimmers come in all shapes, sizes and abilities. Imogen describes herself as a 'dipper': "Some people will swim a mile with no trouble, but I like to explore new places and just enjoy the water!"
Fancy a dip? These are Imogen's favourite Norfolk spots for wild swimming...
1. Horstead Mill, Coltishall
This popular spot on the River Bure is perfect for swimmers of all ages, with grassy space for picnics. "The large area of shallow water makes it good for families," Imogen explains. There's also deeper water for swimming, and white water for jumping and splashing.
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2. Caen Meadow, Wroxham
Imogen recommends this meadow in The Broads which leads to the water via a "really nice shallow sandy beach." Boats occasionally pass through, so consider wearing a tow float or bright swimming cap to improve visibility.
3. Shotesham Ford, Shotesham
With an overhanging horse chestnut and weeping willow, this pool's a fun spot for rope-swinging. "It wouldn't suit people who want to do serious swimming but it's a fun place," says Imogen. The water's shallow except for a deep pool in the middle - perfect for cooling off in the heat.
4. Anderson's Meadow, Norwich
City-based outdoor swim spots in the city centre are hard to come by - so this is special indeed. Entry point is opposite the Eagle Canoe Club, via a ledge at the end of a gradual slipway. "There's plenty of room for everybody," says Imogen, including canoeists, picnicking families, teens, dippers and those training for longer swims.
5. St Helens picnic site, Thetford Forest
This section of the River Little Ouse near Santon Downham sits in the beautiful forest with sandy beaches, deep pools and long stretches for miles in each direction. "It gets incredibly popular in the summer," says Imogen, "so now's the perfect time to go."
For more information and directions, visit WildSwim.com where each spot is listed. Staying safe while swimming outdoors is crucial, and you should always take responsibility for assessing the risks. Swim with others, and always aclimatise to the water before diving in. For advice, visit www.outdoorswimmingsociety.com