What will a Wild Swimming Session Look Like?

Like this???

Portobello Beach circa 1900

A flashback to the bygone days of the Golden age of the Victorian and Edwardian resorts. The number of brave souls venturing into the sea here at Portobello, increases daily. It lifts my spirits and at the same time sends ripples of fear through me. Where will they gain their knowledge of safety and good procedures? The Victorians used bathing machines to enter the water, paddling in the shallows in their bloomers.

So would you like to start Swimming Outdoors?

If the answer is yes, then read on. It is a life changing activity, with physical, mental and social benefits. You won’t regret the decision to get started – unless – you have a poor experience early in your Open Water journey.

You should begin by deciding who you are going to rely on to introduce you to this wonderful experience. Maybe you have a friend who is already swimming and might let you tag along. Maybe you will search out a Facebook or a Whats App group, who will offer lots of advice on local venues, what to buy and perhaps access to a swim buddy system. Or maybe you will invest in a few swim lessons with a trained coach. We can guide you to what equipment you might like to invest in, depending on your aims for your Open Water journey. We will spend time finding out about your previous experience in swimming and in Open Water and Outdoor Pursuits. We will tailor sessions to individual needs, take account of cold water tolerance and transferable knowledge. You will be given advice on procedures to adopt both in and out of the water, in order to ensure that you have a pleasant and successful swim session.

My primary sport has always been skiing and I see the learning and teaching within these sports as being very similar. It is unlikely that you would go skiing without having a few basic lessons. You would take a few lessons and get some pointers of things you could work on. You would go off by yourself or in a social group and practice these things, using your companions as sounding boards. Somewhere down the line you would go back for another few lessons to move you up another level in terms of performance or indeed to relearn some of the basics when the new season starts. If you view Open Water swimming as an Outdoor Pursuit, perhaps you will consider the safety aspects carefully before embarking upon the experience.

So what should you expect a swim lesson to look like?

Meet Maree at the agreed venue. Look out for the branded Royal Blue and Black Kit..

Meet Maree at the agreed venue. Look out for the branded Royal Blue and Black Kit.

We spread ourselves out and then chat through your Open Water swim experience, your aims for the future, the kit you have with you and some basic safety considerations.

Getting changed is not an easy process for anyone. Bring loose clothing and a large towel or changing robe to hide under!!

You can choose to swim in your swimsuit or in your wetsuit. I suggest neoprene footwear and gloves, as well as a hat or swim cap and perhaps a tow float.

You will have had to complete an online Swim Consent Form prior to your first session. This will ensure I know your ability and aims, as well as contact details. This is where the photo consent and GDPR consent is given.

We will organise kit so that it is easily and quickly accessible when exiting the water, as you are likely to be cold and this may lead to confusion.

You may want to warm up your body with some gentle exercises or stretches, you can do this as everyone is getting their kit organised and chatting to the coach about their individual requirements.

We will enter the water slowly, talking through safe entry procedures and ensuring everyone is comfortable – expletives will be tolerated!!

We will stick together and swim at the pace of the slowest in the group.

There is no pressure to swim, you may decide that a paddle or dip is sufficient for the time being. If you decide not to swim, you will be encouraged to put a cosy top on and paddle in the shallows.

Swims will be short, and joyful, perhaps 5 – 15 mins as the water temperature is still in single figures and will remain under 15 degrees until well into the Summer months.

If you decide to wear a wetsuit, you will be able to stay in the water a little longer but it affects your buoyancy and it may take time getting used to this feeling – I know it does for me!

When you exit the water, you will be instructed to get dry, dressed and warm as quickly as possible in order to start the rewarming process and avoid experiencing mild signs of hypothermia and after drop.

Once you are dressed and well wrapped up, you can enjoy your hot drink – which you should always bring with you. If you are lucky, I may even manage to bring along some cake. We will chat about the session, how you are feeling and intentions for further swims – whilst I ensure you are safe to drive, cycle or walk home.

It is really important that you do not have a hot bath or shower too quickly after your Cold Water Swimming session or you may feel dizzy or lightheaded headed – rewarm slowly with some gentle activity – I usually empty the dishwasher etc!!

I would love to see you and help you get started on your Open Water journey, or indeed help you progress your swimming to the next level.

Family Background

I spent sometime during the Winter months trawling through old photograph albums. We have all had lockdown birthdays now and I needed to organise photographs for 21st / 50th and 80th birthday celebrations. It got me thinking that some of these gems might be worth sharing with you, even if it is just to bring a smile to your face and hope for a return to these precious times.

Frances Mackenzie Adam (nee Monfries) Born 1941

My mum and her family lived on a farm in Stirlingshire. It was a tough scenario for my Gran to find herself in; a new baby, her husband away fighting in the war and living in a stone cottage, up a dirt track, with only an outside toilet. A bit of a change from Waverley Park, Edinburgh!! However, Marion “Mysie” Monfries (nee Mackenzie) was made of strong stuff and took it all in her stride. It was safer in the country and her husband’s family were close by in the main farmhouse at Greenwells Farm.

The Monfries family owned several butcher’s shops, including one at Abbey Hill and the Mackenzie family were based in Waverley Park. Despite it being the norm for Edinburgh folk to holiday on the East Coast of Scotland, my Mum and her family travelled West to the Clyde. The Mackenzie family had a share in a small flat in Kilchattan Bay, on the Isle of Bute. Many a Summer for my Mum and her family was spent “Doon the Watter”

Frances fondly remembers her first Girls Guildry Camp in 1952 when she was 10 years old. Her first trip away from home, she enjoyed the company of her friends in St Monans, Fife and they swam every day in the tidal pool.

Girls Guildry Trip to St Monans, Fife

Holidays spent in Kilchattan Bay continued to be an annual occurrence for the Mackenzie family, as they could travel on a “privileged” ticket twice a year to a destination of their choice. So my Great-Gran and Great-Grandad not only took the opportunity to travel far afield to Paris and Jersey, but they also travelled on the “privileged” ticket holiday annually on Bute at Kilchattan Bay for the month of August. Arriving at Kilchattan Bay pier on “The Jeanie Deans” Paddle Steamer having sent their “clothes hampers” in advance.

Frances and Billy Adam (Born 1941)

Although the connection with Kilchattan Bay was lost for several years, my Mum and Dad, Billy, returned to Bute with my sisters and I in 1974 to a rented cottage, and this started the rekindling of the West Coast connections.

My Aunt Marjory and my Uncle Roy eventually purchased a flat in Kilchattan Bay in 1983 and enjoyed bringing their family up there during the school holidays. My cousins Stuart and Karen had friends to stay regularly, the small flat often sleeping 12 people.

My Dad’s family had also holidayed regularly on the West coast, visiting Ayr and also heading East to Anstruther. Scottish coastal holidays consisted of beach days and golf days for the Adam Family. These traditions again being passed down to the next generation. Golf becoming a firm favourite with Grandma -Winifred, Billy and his little sister Winifred. My Aunt Winifred and Uncle Jimmy enjoyed discovering the West coast, and began holidaying annually in Blackwaterfoot, Arran.

Mum and Dad, however, decided to invest their family holidays in a Pemberton Caravan, with a wood-burning stove, sited at Dalraddy Caravan Park, just South of Aviemore. This was to ensure that we could ski in the Winter and adventure in the Summer, and many happy times were spent doing just that. The addition of a large static caravan to their holiday portfolio 😂 meant that we could have friends and family along to share the joys of the Spey Valley.

It was not really the done thing back in the 1970s to take your small child swimming, skiing and canoeing, but as you can see from the photos, Frances and Billy did not really pay much attention to this. Frances had trained as a PE Teacher at Dunfermline College 1963-65 and had been introduced to skiing whilst she was there. She loved it and continued to expand her knowledge and experience. She holds one of the first British Association of Ski Instructors licenses. She worked at Glenmore Lodge and extended her ability and confidence working within the Outdoor Sports environment. She introduced Billy to skiing and they quickly became very proficient skiers, taking themselves off to ski in the Alps, prior to children.

The Pemberton Caravan at Dalraddy was a welcome escape, and with small children in tow, they would head North at every given opportunity. However, Billy worked shifts at BP, so Frances would regularly travel North on her own with us girls. It was not an easy journey, braving the dangers of a snowy A9 and arriving at a cold caravan. The caravan had gas lights and stove needed lit upon arrival in order to get some heat and defrost the water bucket which supplied the kitchen sink. No running water, shower or toilet without trekking through the snow to the shower block in the middle of the caravan site. The “Adam Girls” were regularly joined by Mabel, Fiona and Catriona Shepherd. Whilst John worked his shift at BP, alongside Billy. It was a steamy and cosy caravan on those weekends, as Frances and Mabel shared the double bed which pulled down from the wall and the five girls slept on a makeshift “all tumble in” bed at the other end of the caravan.

Maree Adam – 1970s

My first newspaper article was in the Falkirk Herald in 1970. It was not common practice to take your small child swimming, yet we went weekly to the Falkirk Baths. The result was a photo storyboard detailing what we did each week.

Frances and Billy have passed their love of all things outdoors to the three of us. I would love to share more of these stories with you now, but I think that is enough for this month. Lockdown has provided us all with the opportunity to look back through these beautiful photographs and reflect on the treasured times we have had together. Gareth and I have been swimming every day here at Portobello, and even persuaded Emma to join us in the Summer months, although we have left David to his practice schedule, as he prepares for his first season as a Professional golfer on the Jamega tour. Marjory has been exploring the stunning landscape and wildlife provided by the Scottish Borders, along with her husband Andy and her sons Callum and Lewis. Elaine and her husband Kevin have taken their girls Anna and Lucy off to explore the beaches and Pentlands close to Edinburgh and Elaine is now doing a swimming challenge of her own. Billy and Frances have catalogued a host of new walks around their house in Brightons, Falkirk – including one which takes in the fields and farmland around Greenwells Farm. They hope to share these wonderful walks with us all when we can meet up again. Elaine and I are hoping there may even be some 1/2 day swim expedition venues that we can incorporate into Wild Swim Scotland’s Events Calendar.

Take care, stay safe, stay positive and keep smiling. The green and blue therapy is all you need to re-centre yourself and then take some time to reflect on happy days. These will come again, they will not be the same, but they will be just as precious.

Maree xx