Like all elements of life that this time last year we were taking for granted, the events of 2020 have impacted on swimming. They have stopped us from swimming when we want, where we want and with the people we would choose to swim with. But despite the challenges, many of us have managed to get wet in a range of extraordinary ways – from tethered swims in backyard paddling pools to pre-booked swims at recently reopened lidos – and those swims have been made all the more delicious by the restrictions we’ve had to endure. Here’s to our resilience and the swims we’ve managed to snatch from the adversity of 2020.
Sonia steps behind a waterfall
My best swim of the year was at Pontneddfechan waterfalls in September with my husband. It was such an exhilarating swim, as the falls were spectacular. The water was beautiful to swim in – so fresh and inviting. A combination of the coolness of the water, the stunning scenery and the noise from the falls, made this a swim to stick in my memory. There is something wonderful about standing behind a waterfall; a sensory delight to hear and see and feel.
Sonia is @mainstonecotton on Instagram
Paula makes a Scilly beach her playground, classroom and entertainment venue
My favourite memory from the summer is swimming in July on Scilly in my favourite place. A quiet beach on the far side of the island, away from town and so has few visitors. As a single parent and key worker, homeschooling two children in the back of beyond, this beach – just a few minutes from home – became our playground, classroom, picnic spot and constant source of entertainment during a strange and often lonely summer. We video-called grandparents and ate birthday cake ‘with’ them. I learnt to swim underwater, at the age of 43! Finding joy in such a worrying and difficult year seems wrong, but also essential for the children. I’m acutely aware how fortunate we have been this year, compared to so many. But I will, in many ways, cherish these memories of spending so much time with my children and our summer of swimming.
Paula is @breaststrokenadbobblehat on Instagram
Jo swims across the Bristol Channel from Penarth to Clevedon
Pending ratification, I think I’ve become the first woman to swim this route, and the person with the fastest time ever! I’m waiting on tenterhooks for ratification from the Marathon Swim Federation, which is seeming to take forever. It really helped me to have something to focus on and work towards while lockdown meant there wasn’t a lot else within my control. The swim was a dream, and the time a huge surprise.
Jo is jo_swimsandthings on Instagram
Tessa swims through stillness in a Scottish loch
This was my swim of the year in beautiful Loch Strontian in remote Ardnamurchan in Scotland, a stunning sea loch. We were staying nearby and every morning before breakfast we swam in this beautiful clear, cold water and took in the hills around us. My other half became totally addicted to the cold water buzz and joined me in my outdoor swimming addiction. The stillness of the loch and its clarity was perfect for the soul.
Clare and Sophie dip at the Keeper’s Pond
Some swims are memory makers and our swim of the year is most definitely our dip at The Keeper’s Pond (also known as Pen-ffordd-goch Pond or the Forge Pond). It’s located on the hill above the stunning Blaenavon World Heritage Site in Wales and it was late August. It was the first time we’d seen each other in 2020 and we were superbly over excited to swim together and the chosen spot did not disappoint! It was cold, calm, magical and memorable in many ways.
Claire overcomes the weather and more to swim a marathon
My swim of the year was my first marathon swim. The course was changed and the wind was horrific, which meant we were swimming in choppy waves in a lake, and the paddlers were struggling so much that some bailed. I pulled out reeds and chunks of mud from my swimsuit after the event. I think the inside of my favourite pair of swimmers may be permanently brown now and I was two minutes slower than my time goal. BUT, I finished it! And I stuck to the training program for the full 16 weeks. The sense of accomplishment after all the rubbish that went on – including weird pool closures, time restrictions, patron limits and all the negatives on the day – was the best thing. Very much a day of type two fun.
Claire is @sweat4summer on Instagram
Pippa floats through history
My favourite lockdown swim this year was through the centre of Cambridge. I went with my lovely cousin Lily and we swam through the backs of the colleges and under the Bridge of Sighs. It was like swimming through history. The sun was shining and we caught a lot of people’s eyes as we swam past. It was an incredible adventure that I will never forget. We played in the water for ages and floated around dreaming about the good days and smelling the flowers from gardens we passed.
Pippa is @pip_swims13 on Instagram
Em swims from her new flat by the sea
It’s safe to say that buying a flat during a pandemic had its challenges, but it’s by the sea and I couldn’t be happier. Nature put on a show for my first swim from the flat with a stunning rainbow, only confirming that I’ve found my place in the world. Being able to get to the beach within 90 seconds of stepping outside of my own front door will never get old.