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Why I Swim - Abby Cornforth

Growing up in the Lake District makes me one of the lucky ones I guess, I've never had to go far from my doorstep for a plethora of adventures.

Running, gym, tennis and being dragged out for endless hikes by my parents would occupy my free time pre-teens.

After leaving home at 16; running, walking, climbing and artwork played a big part in my life and it wasn't until the past two years I developed a passion for open water swimming. I started swimming regularly once I began working for Alpkit a couple of years back, I met likeminded people who also had that thirst for adventure. Now 31, I have swum further in the past 12 months than I ever have in my life.

Abby on a hillside near the water

Last February my Dad got diagnosed with cancer, Stage 4 brain tumour. For a little while I didn't really have a coping mechanism but pretty soon I yearned for the water. I craved the cold water that would make my skin tingle and burn lobster red.

I decided to swim 52 miles in 2020 (the total length of all major waters in Cumbria) to raise money for Cancer Research. It became my focus amidst the ongoing battles in the world. My first swim after my Dad's diagnosis was refreshing, for just a few moments I was free from anxiety and free from pain, this was it, this was my medicine.

Abby walking into a lake

There's something about walking into a cold body of water, inch by inch, everything floats away, there's nothing to focus on but your breathing. It brings a sense of relief from everyday worries, when you just need some time to forget about reality and you can just be, be in the moment and be yourself.

I could be going for a one minute dip or two mile training session, in secret fairy pools, local lakes, waterfalls or revitalising rivers — wherever it is and whatever I’m doing, every immersion resets my brain for the day and each swim provides a different experience. But it’s always the same outcome: free.

Swimming became my addiction but it also became my cure, that's why I swim.



Our Why I Swim project aims to give voice to our untold swim stories and strengthen our fantastic community. If you would like to share your story, drop us an email at


If you are new to outdoor swimming and feel inspired to give it a go, please ensure you do so safely. 

Firstly, have a read of our tips for winter swimming here and familiarise yourself with what's useful to have in your wild swim kit.

We would strongly advise trying out your first swim with an experienced cold water swimmer until you are completely confident of your own abilities. 

The Outdoor Swimming Society has a great list of local swimming groups which is well worth checking out and a quick search on Facebook should provide results.

And if you have any questions, pop a post in the Swim Feral Facebook page and our fantastic community of swimmers will be sure to help. 

Happy swimming xx



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