The Bare Necessities

What can be more natural than “dropping in” to your local river or lake (or even the sea). These pages will give you the “Bare Necessities of Wild Swimming” (although you will be relieved to know that nudity is not included!).

It aims to give you a few tips including ignoring all those silly signs saying “No Swimming”.


That said, if you are not a strong swimmer, haven’t swam in the a river and/or lake and/or sea (in UK) before and are thinking of doing it alone (especially if you are under the influence of drink/drugs), it would be very silly to try a wild swim.


Don’t go near the water
To do it any wrong
To be cool with the water
Is the message of this song
Lets all help the water
Right away
Do what we can and ought to
Lets start today

(Kirsty MacColl 1991, “Don’t go near the water”) 


Diggers “Top Tips”

SWIMMING not fashion, fortunately!

1. Find water

You may have to break ice (or not)………..
Preferably a lake or river………..


2. Always remember to undertake your own risk assessment including swimming carefully to avoid live cables – especially if swimming in manholes

Naturally you should follow Health and Safety Regulations and contact the utilities to check they do not have appliances in the area of your swim (be warned this can take 7-14 working days and there may be a charge).

3. Is it deep enough?

Even a bit of a lardy like me can float in about 4 inches of water (although you do have to empty out your belly button post swim). You can usually rely on the locals, although sometimes you can’t:

Recommended in Torrin, Isle of Skye…
Recommended in Hertfordshire…


4. Is it clean?

Brown is not good. ‘No Swimming’ sign not needed here.


Green is not good. ‘No swimming’ sign not needed here.

5. Pick your outfit

Its always best to pick an outfit that will enable you to “fit in” with other water creatures, your surroundings and the time of day.

Having been a member of the SAS I have been trained in many camouflage techniques. You probably can’t see me but I am in this photo! [Note. SAS= Surrey Archaeological Society]

When in Scotland dress like the locals (especially if you are a baldy and need something to keep your head warm)
In Bedford, t-shirt and tinsel seemed appropriate
When swimming in the dark, don’t forget your head torch


6a. Check the water is free of other users

The day of the Bedford Raft race is NOT the best time for river swimming

6b. Check the water is free of other animals

Some rivers have large animals which might look pretty but are best avoided. 


7a. Ignore all those “no swimming” signs

There seems to be some kind of “oppressive anal capitalist anti Wild Swimming plot” to prevent people swimming outdoors (except at the seaside where there are lots of shops and hotels in which people can make money). It’s time to STAND UP IN THE POND for the right to swim.

Front crawl is banned (use breast stroke instead)
Front crawl banned in the Danube (Bulgaria) too – enforced by loud speakers?
You could get round this one by bathing instead
You could get round this one by swimming instead
SHAME on you Buckinghamshire County Council who closed a swimming area at Black Park Lake (nr Slough).


7b. Not quite so bad signs

No banned, not encouraged

I couldn’t decide what I thought to Olney Town Councils rather polite notice that “Swimming is not recommended” and “You do so at your own risk”. It wasn’t quite the silly outright ban that others go for, but on the other hand it is positioned next to a well known (and concrete sided) river swimming pool probably dating back decades.

7c. Now for some sensible signs

Partial hurrah


This sign in the Brecon Beacons warns that “Rivers can be cold, deep and fast flowing”. Quite right to warn us and quite right not to ban swimming.

Another partial hurrah

This sign in Mexico warns that “It’s dangerous not to swim “. Quite right too.

Hurrah. Its ok to swim here
Genuine hurrah

Total respect to Waverley District Council (Frensham Paradise Pond), I promise to ensure my Mums council tax is never late. BUT what is wrong with swimming in the Little Pond?

8. Ensure you have a good support team “on shore”

Yes, please keep me dry!
But the support team often gets quite wet, especially in Scotland!
Yes, please look after my flip flops, passport and all my money (honesty still lives on in The Gambia)
Here the support team looks to be getting a bit cold..
And here, the support team is barely visible in the mist on Ben Ledi

9. Find some friends to join you!

This page has (not) been sponsored by Yorkshire Water and Bucks County Council. The former have been winners of the of the most anal “No Swimming” signs award for many years (see above). However, in 2003 Bucks County Council closed the swimming area in Black Park Country Park thus ensuring that they win the “scum of the water” award until it is reopened.. In 2021 Kings College (Cambridge) were awarded “scum of the year” award for banning swimming at Grantchester Meadows.


10. Have fun (and do a “star jump”!!)