Were, When and With Who?

In my recent Coaching and Confidence Pods I have worked with many people who are excited to use their new skills and confidence to wild swim.

I wanted to pull together a post for those who have attended a session, or are thinking about river swimming and dipping in Nidderdale and the surrounding area. Please remember that swimming in wild water can be dangerous. I would recommend a session with a qualified Open Water Coach before you swim in wild water.  

The ultimate question is WHERE?

This really depends on what you want to do. Dipping, swimming or even waterfall chasing!


There are many spots in our local rivers and streams where we can paddle, sit and have a play in beautiful water.

I would recommend that you explore footpaths and tracks next to rivers, where you will find smaller streams flowing in to them. 

An OS map is useful as you will clearly be able to see water (blue) and any footpaths running alongside them. 

The same applies for finding waterfalls for a shower or plunge in the pool at the bottom. 
OS maps often have waterfalls marked and will clearly show you if access is available via a footpath or right of way. 

In many locations you don't have the right to swim in the river, but it may be tolerated or welcomed by the landowner. Whatever the situation be careful to follow local advice, speak to other river users and if you are asked to leave, do so with grace. 

Also its vital to leave no trace, but you already knew that!  


You will need larger areas to swim in, and will generally find these in rivers where the water is slower and perhaps behind a weir or before some rapids. 

There are many well known places to swim although depending on the water conditions you may or may not want to put your head in. 

Many of you swim with a cool head-up breaststroke which means that you don't risk swallowing any water. 

For the front crawlers its worth checking out your location. Use your nose and develop some experience of the spot before sticking your head under on a regular basis. 

Many of the Facebook groups in my link below have location details in their file sections. Or search any Facebook group and you will find that someone has posted the same question before. 

In Nidderdale and around the most visited swim locations are: 

Knaresborough, Pateley Bridge, Burnsall, Ilkley and the Ure from Ripon and downstream. 


So you have found a nice location. Are you sure you want to go in? 

The water temperature will play a big part in your decision as will the time of year.  Cold water is anything under 15oC, our rivers are often under this and can be nearer 0oC in the winter. 

High rainfall can make rivers dangerous and sometimes un-swimmable.

Watch the weather, and the river itself to get to know the water levels. 

You can use the sites in the link below to track water levels and get an idea of what level is ok for you to swim in. 

Remember that technology is amazing, but trust your instinct and if in doubt don't get in. 

Our rivers can contain nasty stuff which is why its not recommended to swim after high rainfall events. 

Sewage overflow and wash-off from the land in our rivers catchment area can end up in the river. Again be careful after high rainfall, but also consider the land upstream.

Experienced outdoor swimmers will have visited a location many times. It’s always worth visiting your local spot even if you know the conditions are not for swimming - you will learn how the water moves, where debris collects and be able to make future judgements with more experience.  

Who to swim with? 

If you have a bunch of friends who are all in to wild swimming that's fantastic, however most of us don't, but over time you will make some great swimming friends. 

The popularity of open water swimming and dipping has increased massively. The community is a friendly bunch, and I have never come across a wild swimmer who has not been open for a chat and a smile. 

Its important to make sure you are safe, but you will often hear of people meeting up with others who share the love of a swim spot, or are holidaying in a new area. 

Facebook is your friend, and I have met a number of people via social media and have made many connections with swimmers and swim spots via the web. 

Please be careful of your personal safety, but it may be worth introducing yourself in a group, saying where you would like to swim and asking if anyone is willing to join you. 

It may also be worth going to some popular spots on the weekend or summers evening to see if you can chat to any of the "locals". 

Visit this page for links and further info

I offer a range of swimming sessions and experiences for outdoor swimmers or those wanting to try it for the first time - Please get in touch for private sessions or retreats, or visit my booking page to see my group swims. 

Group Swims Booking Page

Email Me

Safe Swimming