Picture Post: Dipping a toe in the waters of wild swimming

PIC: Tony Johnson
PIC: Tony Johnson
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It might not be the highest waterfall in Yorkshire, but Wain Wath Force is among the most picturesque.

Close to Keld in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, the area is known for its falls with three others – Kidson Force, East Gill Force and Catrake Force – just a walk away.

Wain Wath Force has a drop of less than 5ft as the River Swale flows beneath the limestone cliffs of Cotterby Scar and it has become a popular spot for wild swimming, continuing a tradition which dates back centuries.

“As the 19th century dawned, a new era of artists began discovering the appeal of the swimming hole,” says Daniel Start, author of Wild Swimming in which he picks his perfect locations throughout the UK. “And the waterfall was regarded as the quintessence of beauty.

“The fashionable tours of Provence and Tuscany were replaced by trips to the valleys of Wales, Cumbria and the Yorkshire Dales.

“The health and psychological benefits of dipping in natural waters have also been long known. George Bernard Shaw, Charles Darwin and Florence Nightingale were all advocates.

“Cold immersion soothes muscle aches, relieves depression and boosts the immune system. All wild dippers know the natural endorphin high that raises mood, elates the senses and creates an addictive urge to dive back in.

“However the world seemed before a swim, it seems fantastic afterwards.”

As well as recommending the waters around Wain Wath Force, Start also recommends Ghaistrill’s Strid at Grassington and Gormire Lake, close to Sutton Bank, in the North York Moors.

“Sutton Bank offers the finest view in England according to the real James Herriot, Alf Wight,” he says. “Certainly you can see for miles and halfway down the escarpment romantically nestled in woods is the emerald oval of Gormire Lake.

“The tarn was formed 20,000 years ago by glacial erosion and folk tales and legends abound. The water is pretty warm and you’ll most likely be the only person swimming there.”

Technical details: D3s 17-55mm lens 8th@f20, 100 ISO.

Picture: Tony Johnson

Words: Sarah Freeman