Come on in, the water’s lovely!

Digital Editor Carys Matthews is returning to her rural roots to take on a marathon of the water world – the River Dart 10K swim in Devon.

Published: February 17th, 2016 at 3:54 pm

Wild swimming isn’t for the faint hearted with icy temperatures, choppy waters and strong currents to contend with – but it is an outdoor activity that is enjoying a resurgence of popularity in the UK. Figures show that while indoor swimming is waning, people of all ages are experiencing the thrill of swimming in the great outdoors, swimming in lakes, rivers or the sea across the country.


Organised by the Outdoor Swimming Society (OSS), the River Dart 10K takes place in the spectacular River Dart in Devon. The name ‘Dart’ is thought to have the Brythonic Celtic meaning ‘river where oak trees grow’, due to ancient woodland of native oak in the lower regions of the river.

Winding its way over the rugged and wild moors of Dartmoor, the mighty River Dart flows down to the sea in Dartmouth Estuary, which was once an important deep-water port for trading vessels. The upper reaches of the River Dart are now popular with kayakers, while the calmer lower waters of the Dart offer a good angling spot with trout and salmon to be found.

Photo credit: iStock

For wildlife lovers, the river valley is also a haven for birds with a good chance of spotting buzzards, osprey, shags, cormorants, guillemots, egrets, and gannets.

Starting in the colourful market town of Totnes and finishing in the village of Dittisham, swimmers will (thankfully!) head downstream, where they will discover the River Dart estuary is a mix of sea and fresh water.

As a long-distance runner, 10K doesn’t often faze me – however, covering the same distance on land and water are two very different propositions. Or at least, so I am discovering during my thus-far minimal training.

To help calm my nerves, I’m telling myself that this swim is a journey, rather than a race. I simply want to enjoy swimming somewhere that I’ve always loved visiting as a child and experience the landscape from a different perspective. I’ve taken on the challenge of running a land marathon, so now it’s time to see if I can conquer an aquatic one.

Five facts about the River Dart 10K

  1. According to the OSS, swimmers are helped by the flow of the river and the ebbing tide.
  2. The event is organised by 110 volunteers from the OSS, many of whom have volunteered for several years as the event has grown.
  3. The fastest swimmer in 2015 was 1hour 47minutes and the most leisurely was over four hours.
  4. The water temperature in September in the Dart is usually 14-17C. But, in 2015, it was uncharacteristically cold at 13ºC, making a four-hour immersion for the slowest swimmers particularly gruelling. Brrrr!
  5. Two swimmers have completed the event without wetsuits - and doing butterfly.

Watch a video of the 2015 River Dart 10K 

Dart 10k Outdoor Swimming Society from Outdoor Swimming Society on Vimeo.

The River Dart 10K takes place on Saturday 3 and Sunday 4 September 2016. I will be blogging about my training and experiences in wild swimming around Britain, so stay tuned...


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Carys MatthewsGroup Digital Editor

Carys is the Group Digital Editor of and Carys can often be found trail running, bike-packing, wild swimming or hiking in the British countryside.


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