Nationwide, there is a boom in wild swimming. Even the fashion pack, rarely ones to embrace the great outdoors, have got involved. Anne-Marie Curtis, editor-in-chief of Elle, swims regularly at the Kenwood Ladies’ Pond on Hampstead Heath in London, as does designer Louise Gray.
Nearby, writer Eliot Haworth of Fantastic Man magazine can be found braving the often icy water at the men’s pond. “I wear a pair of quite skimpy ultramarine Adidas Lycra trunks and nothing else,” he says. “They are the same pair I bought when I was living in Finland and started going ice swimming. I find their utilitarian sportiness sets me in the right frame of mind for the task ahead. It might seem counterintuitive to bare more skin when it’s cold, but I prefer to have as little wet clothing on me as possible. They also dry quicker.”
Four years ago, printmaker Katherine Anteney entered a triathlon. While training, she remembered how good swimming felt – the peace and the adrenaline, the pleasure of spreading your fingers wide in cool water or kicking your legs in a firm breaststroke. She began visiting lakes regularly. “At first I wore a wetsuit, but ditched that pretty quickly as it felt like it kept me removed from the water.”
I’ve swum in the ladies’ pond every week, all year round, for three years. My swimming partner, Sarah Regh, whom I met in the pond during my first ever visit, is an expert in unusual swimwear. Her current costume is covered in a bold shark print. “It’s from Batoko and is made from recycled materials,” she says. Her top tip is flip-flops for the dash from changing hut to water’s edge. “I would pick flip-flops over hat, gloves and swimsuit, any day; they are key to warming up quickly. They provide vital insulation between the ground and my body and allow me to focus on getting dry.”
Today, Anteney’s favourite swimming spot is the river Test in Southampton. Even in the winter, she will swim a handful of times a month, and the local train now greets her and her swimming partner Pam with a hoot. “Where we get changed is called the Slab. It’s a concrete culvert right next to the tracks on the mainline to Salisbury. We always get a honk and a wave. Those poor fellas have seen our bare bums too many times.”