Open-water swimming has gained more and more recognition and attendees since the world stood still. Looking after one’s health and connecting with nature was a priority on many people’s agendas.
I began scouring social media sites back then to see the fantastic places where fearless open-water swimmers took themselves for their swims. Lakes, rivers and oceans were accessible for all to enjoy in some of the most beautiful places on the planet.
As I scrolled through these images, feelings of amazement (how did they get into such cold water), fear (how easy is it to drown out there) and trepidation (if only I could have a go) all flooded my mind.
Several times during the time we would rather forget, I toyed with the idea of having a go at open water swimming but never managed to pluck up the courage – until now.
The nearest I got to wild swimming was a quick swim at Kynance Cove in Cornwall in October, and believe me, that was cold with a capital C, even with a wetsuit on!
Wild Swimming at Divers Cove Godstone
One of my friends is a regular open-water lake swimmer at Divers Cove in Godstone Surrey and asked if I wanted to come for a swim. Well, that was around six months ago at the start of the season in April, and it’s taken me until August to finally dip a toe into the lake, and guess what – I loved it.
Well, maybe not the lead-up to it, if I am honest. I couldn’t sleep the night before my new activity, anxious that my old bones wouldn’t be able to keep going around the 450m or 650m lake circuits.
And I had such unnecessary questions running riot in my head as I tried to sleep. Just how embarrassing would it be if I ended up flailing around in the water and had to be rescued? Or what if I swallowed water and ended up with an unwanted parasite in my stomach?
An Introduction to Open Water Swimming at Divers Cove
On the morning of my first wild swim, I sprung out of bed, eager to get it over with and to be able to say at least I had tried this new activity.
I arrived at Divers Cove to complete my introduction to Open Water Swimming with Rhona, a fully qualified wild swim teacher and competitor of many an open water challenge, including the recent Pier to Pier Isle of Wight sea swim. I was in good hands.
Ten other attendees were in our group, including Mr Wander, who had reluctantly been dragged along as my support system! After a 30-minute talk covering vital information about OWS, including how to recognise signs of hyperthermia kicking in and warm your core up after getting out of the water, we were ready to get into the lake.
I sported a non-flattering neon pink swim cap, compulsory for open water swimming to enable you to be seen at all times, and a neon pink float, again essential as a visual aid and to hang onto if you get tired. Mr Wander was kitted out in neon orange and not overly impressed with his far-too-tight swim cap!
Being the ice queen I am, I had brought along a wetsuit, worried that the 22-degree water was way too cold for me to survive, and wriggled my way into it as the other newbies made their way into the water led by Rhona.
Into the Blue
And we were off. I plunged into this idyllic lake on a beautiful sunny August morning and was finally wild swimming!
Rhona tasked us with swimming 25m (yes, that is the first certificate a child gets when it learns to swim) to a small sandbank at the side of the lake where we could stand up and take a breath. I found the short swim a real struggle. My arms and back hurt, the sun was fogging up my goggles, and Mr Wander, who didn’t want to come in the first place, was out in front like a professional wild swimmer, totally oblivious to my discomfort.
To be fair, I was so happy that he had embraced it from the moment he got in, which meant I would always have a swim buddy. He then told me to take off the wetsuit to make it easier to move.
I looked around at the other ladies, who had all managed to survive in mere swimsuits and decided my moment of truth was imminent. Off came the wetsuit and, with it, freedom of movement, and now nothing was keeping me from swimming around the 450m loop circuit that had previously looked quite daunting.
Rhona had already pointed out the route, where to swim around the buoys and a couple of shallow sand banks on the opposite side of the lake so you could rest if your arms and legs felt heavy. Several of the group decided they weren’t ready to swim the circuit and got out, which was fine as everyone needed to swim at their ability and comfort zone.
Open Water Swimming Converts
Gliding through the water felt very liberating, and if I could have patted myself on the back and said well done, Angie, I would have done it! I did breaststroke, and even though Mr Wander’s preferred stroke is the front crawl, he stayed alongside me to give me the confidence I needed to make it around the lake circuit.
A family of coots joined us as we swam, whose nest was on one of the banks. Being so close to wildlife in these beautiful surroundings was pretty magical. It was then that I knew that open-water swimming was something I wanted to continue doing, and looking at the smile on Mr Wander’s face, I knew we might just be open-water converts.
Final Thoughts on Open Water Swimming
Open-water swimming is a great outdoor activity. It gives you a feeling of freedom, keeps you fit and can be done in all seasons. So if you have been wavering like me, don’t put it off any longer – just do it!
Once you feel confident, you can venture further afield to other bodies of water. It is always best to swim with a buddy and check out tide times if swimming in the sea. Always take as many precautions as possible before wild swimming.
Need to know about Divers Cove Swimming Lake
Divers Cove is a seven-acre reservoir and has a sandy bottom.
Divers Cove is open from April to October.
Introduction to Open Water Diving is a one-hour talk and swim and costs £25
Divers Cove is a members-only site. Each swim is pay-as-you-go and priced according to your membership level.
Parking is on the road leading to the lake and the overflow car park.
Basic changing rooms and toilets are available, but no showers are on-site.
Facilities include a small cafe serving coffee, tea and cakes, a sauna and a hot tub (extra fee)
Lifeguards are on duty.
Things to Take for a Wild Swim at Divers Cove
You can click on blue links to purchase on Amazon
Flask (for hot fluids for cold days)
Over-Ears Swim Cap ( good if you don’t like getting water in your ears)
Swim Float (not always necessary if wearing a wetsuit)
Neoprene swim socks (optional)
Swim goggles (tinted option for sunny days)
Baggy, warm clothes to change into after exiting the water.
A woolly hat, gloves and scarf for after swimming in winter.
Other Open Water Swimming Lakes in Surrey
The Surrey Hills Adventure Company at Buckland lake in Reigate.
Tuesday 23rd of August 2022
Very informative article Angie. Definitely making me think of giving it a go.
Wednesday 24th of August 2022
I am glad you found it interesting, and you should definitely give it a try; I'm sure you would like it.