Our grandmas set the standard for the kind of adventures you could have in life. Our dad’s mum sailed across the Atlantic three times, while our mum’s mum, Grandma Wild, spent most of her life in the highlands of Scotland, hacking bracken in her coppice, climbing the surrounding hills and rowing across the loch. We were raised to explore and appreciate the outdoors. From a young age, we understood that the natural world was not something to be feared or confined. At times, I protested and complained that walks in the hills were less appealing than the warmth and comfort of the indoors. I often found it more agreeable to curl up in the flickering cocoon of computer games and films. It wasn’t until later in life, when I was working in the city of Newcastle and building my own routine, that I realised the value of what it was they were trying to instil in us. Ultimately, they were trying to show us that the human experience is much older than we think it is. In doing so they taught me that many of the answers to questions that distress us can be found in the simplicity and quietude of nature.
Wild swimming is a relatively new term for something our species has done for millennia. One theory of our origins claims that our ape-descendants once learnt to walk upright because of their largely aquatic lifestyle and that we have acquired our great intelligence with the help of the marine food web. Regardless of whether this Aquatic Theory is true or not, we are indebted to the waters of the world and intrinsically connected to them. Understanding this, my two brothers and I decided to travel the world on swimming expeditions, drawing attention to far-flung bastions or natural beauty and hopefully highlighting the importance of conservation. We called ourselves the Wild Swimming Brothers.
Of course, there are countless reasons why we decided to set out on this adventure, but, in short, we wild swim because it reminds us of time when we were kids together – when there was nothing more important than finding a perfect, pristine pool or an outcrop to jump from. We never want to forget the immensity of nature, nor lose sight of the way in which it dissolves the walls of these small worlds and selves we choose for ourselves. Wild swimming is a way of immersing yourself in new, carnal sensations. It offers an escape from your routine and the means to break out from the pre-ordained structure of societal living.
If you are someone who feels wholly satisfied with your lot in life. If the high-rise buildings and shuddering commute is enough for you, then I wouldn’t recommend you pursue this sport. However, if, like us, you are someone who suffers from restlessness – someone who yearns for a deeper connection with life and who relishes the opportunity to be close to the wildlife we share this planet with, then I would wholeheartedly recommend you try wild swimming. Just find a safe place nearby, perhaps an outdoor lido or a shallow river – spend some time getting to know your environment and teach yourself to acclimatise to the conditions. I certainly don’t think that you’ll ever regret it.
MEET JACK, CALUM AND ROBBIE HUDSON, three brothers born and raised in an English pie-eating county called Yorkshire. Growing up, they loved nothing more than inventing games together and exploring the wild outdoors, whether it was kayaking with seals and porpoises in Scottish lochs or paddling with their inflatable crocodile, Snappy, off the beaches of Devon. Then their lives changed when they moved up to Cumbria and found the idyllic Lake District within cycling distance. Slowly they learned the simple joy of whiling away their summers jumping off stacks and wild swimming with friends. It was a fun way of staying healthy, whilst also relishing this ancient playground we have waiting for us outside.
Eventually, as they grew older, the brothers started to notice that folk, including themselves, were growing increasingly more and more detached from the natural world. Working in cities, they began to feel the weight of life in the urban grind - the common monotony of a nine-to-five, during which the only wildlife we see is the occasional drab pigeon or seagull. At the same time they noticed a sad cycle of anxiety, fatigue and desperation. It seemed like everything they'd done as kids was fading behind the tinted glass of nostalgia. So, they decided to get together and change their course.
Suddenly the Wild Swimming Brothers was born.