Nature Watch: Open swim a real spectacle

Alice Bonifacio has been getting a 'frog's eye view' of Woodberry Wetlands.

Alice Bonifacio has been getting a 'frog's eye view' of Woodberry Wetlands. - Credit: Archant

The West Reservoir Centre may have been the saving grace of the summer.

Having lived in both Hackney and Haringey for many years, I used the structureless days of lockdown to explore the wonders of the Woodberry Wetlands, bursting with wonderful birdlife and wild hedgerows.

Even though I have dabbled in open water swimming over the years, I’m no Roger Deakin and usually stick to the usual safe spots via word-of-mouth. However, the prospect of exploring Britain’s rivers and coast-lines from a “frog’s eye view” does appeal.

As I make my way along the New River Path on a bright October morning, the impressive 1930s structure of the West Reservoir Centre peaks out over the top of cascading birch, willow and oak trees that are starting to turn. I feel a buzz of excitement as little red swimming caps bob along in the water.

I arrive for my 11.20am slot and overhear the conversation of two hardcore swimmers in front of me, discussing the open water swim podcast, Swim Out. After changing into my wetsuit I make my way to the jetty and push off into the lake.

The water is very cold but my body temperature begins to adjust as I get into my stride. It is both unnerving and freeing not being able to see underwater; I feel suspended in space as my limbs cast out into the black expanse. This immediate contact with nature reminds me of my tiny insignificance in the world. Here, I am her guest.

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