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The crystal clear waters of Cornwall

Wild Swimming in the crystal clear waters of Cornwall: Daniel Start, Matt Newbury and Sophie Pierce on how to reduce the stress and anxiety from your busy hospital job by meditative Wild Swimming.

It is a magic that comes leaping into the mind when we think of Cornwall, and in truth it is a magic place. Saints and legends, holy wells and ancient crosses are everywhere…. and at times there is an eeriness in this grim rock-bound coast, so that unadventurous people do not always feel easy in its presence. Certainly Cornwall is no place for the man who has no mystery. Here if anywhere it is plain that we are such stuff as dreams are made of – from Cornwall, England’s Farthest South by Arthur Mee 1937.

The popularity of wild swimming has grown enormously in the past decade. The health benefits are huge. “Not only is it great for your heart and circulation; it is apparently also good for your libido, while the natural high is undeniable,” write Matt Newbury and Sophie Pierce, the co-authors of a new guide: Wild Swimming Walks Cornwall. It is also immensely beneficial for your mental health, as it helps to reduce stress, anxiety and depression and can be very meditative.

All wild-dippers know the natural endorphin high that raises mood, elates the senses and creates an addictive urge to dive back in. However, grim the world seemed before a swim, it looks fantastic afterwards. This enchanting book recommends 28 of the best wild swims in some of Cornwall’s wildest and most beautiful landscape and describes a mix of day walks and weekend adventures, highlighting the wildlife, geography, history and culture along the way. Discover sparkling mermaid pools and coral sands in Penwith, float on azure waters in Nanjizal sea cave, wander up Frenchman’s creek on the Helford River and stop for a drink at haunted smugglers’ inns in Fowey and Bodmin.

Explore Cornwall’s ruggedly unspoilt coast, wooded estuaries, moorland-rivers, secret coves, smugglers’ caves and tiny harbours which inspired Daphne du Maurier’s novels. “Whether it’s whooshing down one of the many estuaries and creeks with the tide, swimming from beach to beach, or wallowing in the abundance of tidal pools, marvelling at the wildlife below the surface, you will find Cornwall an aquatic Avalon full of swimming surprises,” write the authors. From the “gin-clear sea of Mevagissey Bay”, to the “languid green waters of the Helford River” to the rugged Lizard and Land’s End, with dramatic views, there are “many caves, arches, tunnels and islands to explore,” write the authors.

“Coldwater swimming is also a sure-fire way to burn calories quickly and building muscle tone and graceful technique (see bow below). If you want to get started you need very little beyond some trunks (remember plastic bag to take them home in), a small travel towel (or sarong), and ideally some lightweight aqua shoes. Plan a walk or run so you arrive hot and sweaty, and you should be able to manage 20 minutes without a wetsuit. For a longer session, or if you are heading into unknown territory – particularly the sea – you will need wetsuit. A simple swim cap will also conserve a huge amount of heat, and add to your visibility. You’ll never want to return to a soulless pool afterwards,” says Daniel Start, the author of several Wild Guides, including Wild Swimming France: France’s 1000 most beautiful rivers, lakes, waterfalls and natural pools to published by Wild Things Publishing Ltd. on June 24th ‘21.

Even if you are not interested in swimming, England’s far West has plenty to offer. “Cornwall is a country, not a county, a kingdom with its own language and fierce identity. A place of romance, beauty and legend, but one whose people have historically had tough lives, battling both the sea and the land in their main industries of fishing, mining and farming. Around four million tourists visit every year, drawn mostly to the 300 miles of breathtaking coastline, but there is so much more to experience along Cornwall’s central ‘backbone’ from magnificent moorland with ancient stone circles and quarry lakes to the china clay district, where the heaps of white spoil thrust skywards like Cornish Alps,” write Matt Newbury and Sophie Pierce.

Fans of the ‘Wild Guide’ series, (or armchair travellers) alike will enjoy their lavishly illustrated guide to wild swimming and walks in Cornwall, packed with beautiful
photography, maps, directions and practical tips. Highly recommended for anyone thinking of holidaying in Cornwall this summer.

You won’t want to return home!

Wild Swimming Walks Cornwall: 28 coast, lake and river days out by Matt Newbury and Sophie Pierce published by Wild Things Publishing Ltd. May ‘21, Price £14.99p
Wild Swimming France: France’s 1000 most beautiful rivers, lakes, waterfalls and natural pools by Daniel Start published by Wild Things Publishing Ltd. June ‘21, Price £18.99p

Rebecca Wallersteiner

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