Another new experience this week: swimming in the Thames proper, rather than a dock. Tidal Thames Swims take place on various evenings throughout the summer according to the tides, in the stretch of the Thames beyond Hammersmith Bridge, where swimming is permitted but maybe not the safest thing to do on one’s own. The sessions have been running for a few years now and many of the attendees seemed to be local and know each other, but there was a complete mix of ages, abilities and attires – from serious swimmers in club colours to wetsuits to beachwear and breaststroke. Like parkrun, it wasn’t a race and everyone was friendly.
I decided to go for a “head up breaststroke” session, because front crawl isn’t great for admiring the surroundings or having a conversation with fellow swimmers. I find breaststroke in a wetsuit really awkward, so that got the push too. Luckily the water was a fairly tepid 20c. Unfortunately my breast stroke is very slow so I found myself right at the back, being kept company by the nautical equivalent of the tail walker. I was quite glad that I wasn’t attempting crawl because the water was full of mulch, random foliage and unidentified floating plastic and I didn’t much want my face in it – on the other hand, a bit of crawl might have meant I wasn’t so embarrassingly far behind. If there is a next time I will bring my goggles and alternate.
The feeling of swimming in the actual Thames amongst rowing boats with the night falling was really special and I enjoyed the feeling of the changing tides pulling you out and then in again. If only the water was a bit cleaner. This really brings home the need to minimise the amount of rubbish I generate, in particular single use plastics. It’s back to Victoria Dock tonight, where the murky green water will suddenly seem clean by comparison.