'Exposed’ Eco painting. Rainwater, watercolours and inks on aquaboard 6cm x 6cm.
Recently I’ve been drawn to paint the wonderful Thames estuary views from my hometown of Leigh on Sea in Essex. I’ve lived in the area for over 20 years but only recently (since getting Vito the Cockapoo) have I witnessed it’s beauty on a daily basis. The light is phenomenal early morning and I’m finding walking so uplifting it’s starting to become a habit I can’t live without.
Something else I’ve noticed is the local interest in open water swimming. Quite often when the tide is in, early morning, there are groups of swimmers taking to the estuary for their daily swim. We now have open water Facebook groups and swimming coaches. My neighbour, Faith Horsley, has been an advocate of open water swimming for a while and recently she took the plunge and completed a night water swim for a local charity! I’ve recorded a chat I had with Faith, all about her passion for swimming and the wonderful resurgence it’s had since lockdown in our part of the world.
When did you first start swimming in the Estuary?
I’ve been swimming in the Estuary all my life. I grew up near Thorpe Bay and we had access to a beach hut where we spent many long summer days having fun, catching crabs, wading through the mud at low tide, swimming in the beautiful clear waters and jumping through the waves. My Dad was a keen sailor and through my younger years we had a family boat that we enjoyed days out in, but I much preferred to be in the water than on it! Nowadays, I swim around 4 times a week if I can, depending on tides, school runs and dog walking commitments!
What is it you love most about open water swimming?
Every day I venture out into the open water is so vastly different. I really enjoy the balmy days of the calm sea, where I can literally glide through the glassy waters and achieve a good distance which feels amazing. In contrast, I absolutely love the buzz of wild and windy days where the water looks so uninviting and Mother Nature is mostly telling me to stay away. I live for those days, getting thrown around in the waves and getting out feeling like I’ve won against her for another day.
Do you ever have any worries about the safety of open water swimming?
Don’t get me wrong, I have total respect for Mother Nature and what she is capable of. There are many hazards to those wild days, floating debris being just one of them, and even on the flattest of millpond days you can have a strong unexpected undercurrent that can take you by surprise. I always swim with at least one other person. The strongest of swimmers can get into trouble out there, cramp or hyperthermia are real dangers to the open water swimmer. I always check the tide times and weather conditions where I swim and am especially careful in new areas that are unknown to me.
How do you minimise any risks?
I have done several courses highlighting the dangers of open water swimming, particularly in the colder months. There is a huge amount of advice to be found online and I am involved in several groups, locally, nationally and internationally who regularly share up to date safety information.
Do you have any advice for first time swimmers?
I would say be mindful and respectful of the sea. In our area, we have a number of expert open water swim coaches and I would strongly recommend that if anyone wanted to get involved to consider a few sessions to learn all about open water swimming. They are always keen to ensure that all local swimmers, especially newbies, are aware of the risks so that they swim safely. Always check the tide times and the weather conditions. Make sure you swim with another person, preferably someone who has experience. Take with you some warm clothes to change into as soon as you get out of the water and a hot drink for afterwards too. Don’t stay in the water too long, particularly whilst you are getting used to acclimatising to the cold. The recommendation from most experts is a minute per degree of temperature. Most of all enjoy! This is a great experience, best shared and the natural high that you get afterwards keeps you glowing all day long!
But beware, this can become an addictive hobby!!!
You can follow Faith @houndstretchers on Instagram.
Faith has even got me tempted to take to the water but I think I’ll be waiting till the Spring now!
Being drawn to the estuary, I’ve been continuing to create some small works back in the studio. Pictured below are three recent paintings where I experimented with various different textures. I‘ve tried to capture the broken and moving surface of the water…
Thank you so much for supporting my first ever blog and a special thank you to Faith for sharing her love of the water here!