Darkness had set on Richmond Park as we squeezed our way through the pedestrian gates at Richmond Hill. The last few cars were making their way out as the park closed its gates to traffic for the night. It felt like we were doing something naughty although being in the park after dark was technically allowed. As we paused for a minute, while the rest of the group caught up, I was disappointed the rainy evening meant we couldn’t see the London skyline. That was one of my favourite things about this entry to Richmond Park.
Lets start at the beginning of this adventure, at 6.30pm on a wet Friday evening in August, a group of us had met in front of Richmond train station. We just had a vague plan of meeting, eating and swimming for the evening, the finer details had been secret. I’d signed up to the activity through Secret Adventures, possibly my new favourite website and London based company and this was my second activity with them. I’d dragged JP along for support this time although I think he was more keen than I was. Our group was much smaller than anticipated with a handful of people bailing because of the rain. As we wandered off to the pub, I took the chance to chat to others in the group. I knew from the last adventure with this company that those who signed up tended to be like minded people, this time was no exception.
Madoc, the organiser, soon dished out the locations for the evening The Lass O’Richmond Hill being the pub but our exact swimming spot will remain a secret from others, just know it was in Richmond. We all enjoyed a bite to eat and a drink as we waited for darkness to creep in. The Lass O’Richmond Hill was a quaint affair which instantly transported me to any country pub I’d find back home in the New Forest. The inside was decorated with artefacts and pictures of the local area and the staff were super friendly. There were no complaints at our table as we tucked into our food, leaving nothing but empty dishes.
As we trekked across Richmond Park to our wild swimming spot for the evening I was amazed at how much light my camera was picking up. It had been months since I last shot long exposure images and I’d forgotten how much more light they pick up than the human eye. I should have remembered this from our northern lights trip in Iceland but I hadn’t. As Madoc lead we snaked round to our exact spot, a little wooded area that allowed for a discreet entry into the water. Although the weather hadn’t been great all day the rain was holding off and the temperatures were’t too baltic. Unfortunately I couldn’t say the same for the water temperature…
The oozing mud squirmed under my feet as I made my way towards JP who was already knee deep in the water. As I stood in the darkness, in my swimming costume, unable to really see the water I pretended I was brave. I was determined my fear of open water was not going to stop me getting in and swimming like it had a few weeks before at the canoeing trip. I marched past JP and submerged myself into the water, the cold hit my chest immediate. I was determined not to freeze to death. I began swimming and quickly decided I wanted to do the lap around the island, if nothing else it would warm me up. After all Madoc had said the water was never deeper than his shoulder height at any point.
We couldn’t have reached more than a third of the way when I remembered how terrible I am at swimming. Add in the fact I had been feeling poorly half the week and my strength was second to none. I then realised I was too scared to put my feet down onto the bottom of the lake, awash with mud and reeds the sensation just felt too strange on my legs and feet. After a little encouragement from JP and far too much moaning from my mouth I made it all the way around and back to the shore. I felt proud, energised and refreshed. I couldn’t have asked for more from a evening of wild swimming in Richmond.
Getting back to nature, challenging myself to face my fears and taking part in activities I used to do as a kid are just a few of the reasons why I love the adventures these guys offer.