I can’t believe it’s been over a year since I’ve been doing these blogs and I have not yet featured one on swimming. I know. It’s ridiculous considering for quite some time I was known as Sean Conway – The Swimmer. It even says that on my Wikipedia page (If someone knows how to change that I’d be ever so grateful)
Anyway, living in Coniston and not swimming is like being French and not eating all the baguettes, and when it comes to dipping your toes into the often-icy water there is one particular swim that I love the most. I call it the Swallows and Amazons Swim.
Truthfully this is not a proper swim in as much as a little mini-adventure that involves a little bit of swimming. I think most 10 years olds who swim regularly could do this too. In fact, I do it with my dog – Lord Shackleton Jr.
The idea is to take some supplies so I get a drybag and fill it with a Kelly Kettle, some tea, a few twigs, some dog food and some snacks. Shackleton and I then jump in the car and drive down the east side of the lake toward the bottom end. We’re in search of a pirate’s island called Peel Island.
We park up and I take my clothes off while Shackleton gets a life jacket put on him. The water is cool but not freezing and I throw a stick for Shackleton and he chases it into the water as if his life depended on it. I test to see if my dry bag is watertight. It is and I jump in and stay underwater a bit and turn upside down and look back up through the water. Everything is silent. I love it. For that moment the entire world and all its problems disappear. I wish I could breathe underwater. In fact, it’s my most frequent recurring dream. My underwater Narnia is quickly ruined when Shackleton comes swimming over me with the stick in his mouth struggling to breathe. He still hasn’t worked out how to stop water getting in his mouth while attacking a stick as if it were a wild rabbit.
I come to the surface and grab the stick (always a rigmarole as his terrier mind wants to both wrestle with the stick in my hand and for me to throw it at the same time) I win throw it towards the pirate island and follow alongside Shackleton as we swim nearer.
The swim is only about 100m long and Shackleton beats me to the shore and scuttles of enjoying the new smells. I get to work putting my Kelly Kettle to work with the twigs I brought and soon have a lovely warm fire boiling my water for a brew. I whistle for Shackleton to come back and he eventually does and I treat him to a bowl of his favourite snacks. Even though we’re not far from shore and Peel Island is only about 50m long, it still feels like we’ve discovered a new land. We have the island to ourselves and we feel like conquerors. This called the Swallows and Amazons swim because Peel is considered to be one of the origins of the fictional Wild Cat Island in the 1930 book - Swallows and Amazons. I like that. After tea, we explore for another few minutes and then pack everything up and head back to shore.
I’ve yet to experience a reward as high as completing a swim adventure, even all the records I’ve broken on the bike or the long runs I have done, there is something about swimming that makes you feel like you’ve really achieved something, no matter how small it is. Swimming adventures will always remain in my soul, and I hope that’s the same for you.