Written by Robbie Wild Hudson
On the 15th August, my brothers and I begin an adventure to swim all 90 miles of the River Eden in nine days. We will start at the source near Hell Gill, and swim 10 miles each day until we reach the Solway Firth, camping along the way. This has never been done before. We believe it will be a great opportunity to re-connect with a landscape that is close to our hearts, and a river that we have known since we were children.
We were all born in Yorkshire, and grew up in Cumbria, in a house with a garden that led down to the River Eden. Our summers were spent cycling out to swimming spots, finding cliffs to jump off and camping by the lakes. Wild swimming gave us the opportunity to explore and venture into ancient and untamed parts of the natural world around us.
After finishing school at Ullswater Community College in Penrith, we each took a year out to travel before university. During this time, and the years that followed, we were lucky enough to swim in The Atlas Mountains, The Himalayas, Indonesia, Brazil, Scandinavia and Australia, as well as in underwater lakes and rivers in Central America and New Zealand. Since graduating from Newcastle, Northumbria and Durham Universities, we have lived in many different places around the world. Currently, Calum lives and works for a tech start up firm in London, Jack is a writer in Newcastle, and I am an artist based in Berlin. The swim is a way for us to return to our roots and answer the call of the wild together, through a sport and a passion that we collectively share.
After completing an Ironman Triathlon, Calum came up with the idea, and Jack and I agreed without hesitation. I had recently swum the 7.5-mile length of Lake Ullswater, and Jack is a qualified lifeguard, so we had some experience under our belts to build upon and augment with serious training.
Our training routine is pretty intense but the worst aspect is undoubtedly the freezing showers and ice baths! Acclimatizing to the cold is a big part of our conditioning. Calum has been swimming the Serpentine, Jack in the North Sea and I’ve been training in the Lakes surrounding Berlin. Each week consists of several long distance swims, as well as additional interval training and technique sessions. We also lift weights - following a stripped down and basic routine incorporating major compound lifts and not a whole lot else. 6am squat sessions are as much about building mental toughness as they are increasing strength. During the swim itself we will need to navigate waterfalls, weirs and rapids, so we must be confident in our ability to stay mentally strong.
Another of our main motivations for swimming the Eden is to fundraise for The Swimming Trust. We share many core values with this organisation, so raising money for the fantastic services that they provide became a natural step for us. Their initiatives ensure swimming coaching and opportunity for people who would otherwise have no access to these facilities and services. They promote swimming as a basic and essential life skill, and champion its physical and psychological benefits.
Wild swimming lowers blood pressure, burns fat and cellulite, increases cardiovascular ability, strengthens your immune system, releases endorphins and can alleviate the symptoms of depression and anxiety. It also promotes a healthy respect for the natural environment and the flora and fauna that we share it with.
From Charles Darwin to Albert Camus, the list of wild swimming advocates is eclectic, varied and lengthy. It is a great way to get fit, a strong community to be a part of, and a pastime that allows you to see the natural world with fresh eyes. Every wild swim, regardless of scale or scope, is an adventure in itself.