Not quite 'a walk on the wild side' but my dip in the lake could become an addiction / Sue Plunkett

The great thing about my job is you can write about people who are brave enough to climb mountains, go hang  gliding or attempt to run 150 miles in two days from the comfort of my desk.

Friday, 25th June 2021, 5:59 pm
Sue Plunkett (left) after her open swimming experience in Derwentwater with her long time friend Marie and her dog Harley

I can get a 'feel' of what those experiences are like without ever having to try them.

But all that changed when I interviewed a bed and breakfast owner who lives in Keswick and goes open water swimming every day of the year!

Catherine Fairfield swears it's what kept her sane through lockdown when she had to close her b and b and spend endless days on her own with just her dog Polly for company while her husband Jason ran his business in Burnley five days a week.

The benefits of open water swimming are numerous. It improves your circulation and skin tone, it's great exercise and there is plenty of evidence supporting the fact it can help with depression.

It reminds me of that film from the 80s, Cocoon where a group of mischievous senior citizens break into a house occupied by aliens. They take a dip in the pool and find themselves energized with youthful vigour and all their aches and pains disappear because of the magical serum in the water.

So on a weekend visit to Keswick I packed my cossie and was determined to have a dip on Derwentwater to see what all the fuss was about.

Luckily we were blessed with scorching temperatures but the coldness of the water still took my breath away when I dipped my toe in at the water's edge.

A fellow guest in the hotel also wanted to give it a go and, in her sleek black costume, bathing hat and goggles she looked like she was ready to swim the Channel! I was in my flowery suit and sunglasses.

We held hands as we followed Catherine and her mate Sue, who also takes a dip 365 days a year. I almost fell a couple of times on the slippery rocks you have to navigate until you arrive at what Catherine described as a 'mushy bit' where the earth seems to disappear from under your feet.

Now was the time to swim and it took a couple of seconds and as the water lapped around me I had to catch my breath again but once I had taken the plunge it was an amazing feeling to be swimming in such a beautiful place with the sun shimmering on the water.

I only stayed in the water for about 10 minutes and I didn't swim very far but when I came out and wrapped myself in a big fluffy towel I did experience a lovely tingling feeling all over my body. I felt relaxed and rested almost.

And that was after just one little session.

We did acquire a small 'audience' including Marie, one of my oldest friends from schooldays who is also a hotelier in the town with her husband Russell. We hadn't seen each other for several years so when I knocked on her door I wasn't sure if she would recognise me, especially in a mask.

"I would know you anywhere," she said as we spent a good half hour reminiscing and she decided she needed a laugh so she would come and watch me swim!

Catherine told me that open water swimming is addictive and my fellow guest was already asking when she could go again. So maybe open water does contain the elixir of youth?

What makes swimming in Keswick so special is the added extra of the stunning scenery around you. It was my first visit to this enchanting place and, rather than queue up for a table in a pub or beer garden, we grabbed some food and drink from a local supermarket and sat by the lake.

It was such a tonic and I would highly recommend it, both the swimming and the alfresco dining in one of the UK's most stunning places.