Swim Snowdonia with Vivienne Rickman-Poole
It was August, and only a couple of weeks after returning from a month long trip in Canada, I was still in the grips of jet lag. Maybe it was the holiday blues, or maybe it was fatigue surfacing from a non-stop summer, but the thought of a weekend away camping in the august drizzle was the last thing on my mind! But as the weekend arrived and plans began to form the energy, thankfully, started to return.
Charlotte and I set off for Snowdonia on the Friday night. With a rough idea of a campsite in mind we felt relaxed that if all else failed we could wild camp or park up somewhere and take shelter in the car.
The drive passed in a whirlwind of chatter. I was very quickly aware of how, despite considering Charlotte a good friend (albeit a fairly new one), we had never been just the two of us. In the comfort of the car we found ourselves sharing and discussing many elements of our lives. Opening up. Letting go. Theres something really special about those moments. Unguarded & honest.
We arrived at our chosen campsite and were relieved and surprised to find it practically empty. It was the August Bank Holiday and we had expected everywhere to be booked. We found our spot in the field, a no frills farm site, and immediately preceded to pitch our tents. The wind was picking up and I was regretting bringing the ‘proper’ tent… particularly since I had never pitched the darn thing! I looked over in envy at Charlotte; with a ‘pop’ and a few pegs, she was done. I was then left ‘faffing’ but to the pleasing sound of Charlotte singing and playing guitar… a sense of ease falling over me.
That night neither of us got much sleep. The tents were rattling as the wind whipped through the valley – in and out of sleep & needing a wee every time we woke up. Who can relate?!
Morning came, we had our breakfast and set off for Petes Eats in Llanberris where we had organised to meet Vivienne and the rest of the group. Unsure and a little nervous of what to expect.
I had long admired Vivienne and her work. I remember the fist time I saw the film Bluehue by Natasha Brooks. I was still in my triathlon training mindset and my outdoor swimming consisted of putting in the miles. Wetsuit, cap and goggles on, with a focus on the end goal. The notion of actually embracing the water, enjoying the surroundings and savouring the journey had never really crossed my mind. But Bluehue changed that and I was quickly eager to embrace the water in a different way. With the discovery of Natasha and this slower more sense driven approach I soon came across the photography work of Vivienne. The headless bodies immersed in anonymous water. A poetic beauty of simple moments. I then watched her film ‘Afterglow’ which is inspired by Vivienne’s passion for creativity and love of swimming… its also set in the depths of winter. Having embarked on my own all-year swimming journey I was feeling empowered and inspired. Upon discovering that Vivienne was offering guided swimming days and weekends in the mountains on Snowdonia I new I just had to book on and experience one for myself, and if I’m honest I think the nerves were more about meeting Vivienne herself than what the day would bring in terms of swimming and adventure.
After meeting at Petes Eats we all got to know each other over a coffee, Vivienne talked us through what to expect from the day and handed us each a handmade notebook – this was to be used for writing, sketching… anything that would encourage our creative sides! It also included one of Vivienne’s captured images.
After deciding on what kind of swim / walk we would prefer, we set off. Barely out of Llanberris and the heavens opened! Thankfully the day was filled with showers AND sunshine. Along the walk Vivienne chatted about the local landscape and her knowledge of the area was abundant and clear. Theres something very special about Snowdonia and I loved discovering this new part.
We reached the water and everyone was filled with chatter and excitement for the swim ahead. Swimming costumes have become a bit of an obsession for myself and swimming friends. When together much of our discussion turns to our favourite designs and where / when we might get our next one. A friend who was with us has also started making her own (Instagram: swim_sew_wild) and we are all subsequently lining up for our very own one-off design!
But we also spoke of how being in water, for women particularly, aided body confidence. You are completely covered yet practically naked. Weightless. Free to move without prying eyes or judgement.
The water wasn’t as cold as we first expected. Floating, sinking, treading and chatting. We were in until our bodies started telling us that we should probably get out! and reluctantly we did.
Once changed and warming we ate and drank tea. Vivienne encouraged us to take part in a writing exercise and for a long time we sat, embracing our surroundings. Not rushing off to get to work, or to the next place. Still and aware. Charlotte and I decided to do some sketching of the landscape around us. I love to draw, but its not something I prioritise time to do very often. But today I was taking full advantage. It was a very calming method for grounding us in our environment and noticing, being mindful of where we were.
On the walk back to Llanberris we stopped for a second dip in the river. Fast flowing and exciting it was in complete contrast to the dark still waters of the previous swim.
On return to Llanberris we a reflected on the day over hot chocolate and cake. I had met three new wonderful women and spent a great day out with three good friends. I felt the most relaxed I had felt in a long time. The pace and creativity of the day had been just what I had been yearning for and myself and Charlotte returned to camp (after a pub dinner) with a warm glow of happiness and contentment.
It was my second visit to the Snowdonia National Park. Vivienne Rickman-Poole’s Swim Snowdonia made it a very special August Bank Holiday Saturday. We visited a beautiful tarn surrounded by the mountains where 7 wild women swam. Emerged in the darkness of the fresh water we had an enjoyable splash and sang happy birthday to one of the group. Afterwards some of us read a poem, some wrote poems and some sketched in Vivienne’s handmade notepad.
The mountain surroundings and the day as a whole was very calming and relaxing. It was a wonderful wild women day out that had us swimming, walking, chatting, sketching, writing, sharing and laughing. Vivienne is an amazing mountain-swim guide, thank you for having us in Wales!