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LUCKY SEVERN

A true adventure for Ross Sullivan: swimming the length of Britain’s longest river

The water is so dark and murky that I can’t see my hands in front of me. The river is narrow, full of obstacles and hard to navigate. A trickle of cold water down the back of my wetsuit sends a shiver through my body. It is my first day of swimming down Britain’s longest river. Wild swimming is supposed to be fun, but this isn’t exactly a laugh a minute.

Earlier that day I had met with my river and land support crew. I could see the disbelief in their eyes: “Is he really going to swim the remaining 280km of the River Severn?” It was a question I was already asking myself.

Three days earlier, on 1 June, I was dropped off near the source of the river. I had no money, no support and just a small bag on my back. For the next three days I walked 80km to Pool Quay where the river becomes swimmable.

The first two days were easy hiking. But on the third day, my right ankle went after only 10km. Pool Quay was still 25km away. Every time I put my foot down resulted in a sharp pain. I hopped for a few kilometres, before walking barefoot for a while. In the end I gritted my teeth and just kept going, something I would get used to doing over the next 15 days.

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About Outdoor Swimmer

We know that most of our readers are fully converted to the joys of swimming outdoors and only venture into indoor, chlorine-filled pools when necessity (or a training schedule) dictates. But it seems that some people haven’t yet discovered our world. They don’t know the thrill of cool water against their skin, the joy of looking up and not seeing a roof but sky and trees. They don’t know how to gauge the temperature of natural water (nice, cool, flippin’ freezing!) or the special properties of river, lake and sea water. When they swim they don’t hear bird song, they hear the aqua aerobics class from the lane next to them. If you know one of these people, please help them by showing them a copy of this magazine. We have lots of inspirational stories and features to help them break out of that chlorine-filled box. What better way to dip into swimming outdoors than wild swimming in our beautiful national parks? Our feature on the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales will guide you to the best swim spots in both parks. Or if you prefer your waters a little warmer, why not head to the Costa Brava, where I explored the coast from the safety of new boat-free areas. We have also been hearing from readers about their epic swims: English Channel, North Channel, round Bermuda and the length of Britain’s longest river. We love reading your inspiring stories, even if your challenges sometimes scare us a little bit... Enjoy the magazine and happy swimming.
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