Ellingham Lake has opened up again for open water swimming so it must officially be the start of the summer open water training season! The water temperature was quoted as 11º so it's still quite fresh but warmer than the sea and warm enough to get in some meaningful distance. Ellingham Lake is an accredited NOWCA (National Open Water Coaching Association) lake so you have the peace of mind of knowing that their facilities and procedures are up to scratch. There's a friendly atmosphere in the club house and the hot showers and changing facilities are a bonus. They also provide a good standard of safety cover with a paddle boarder on the water when I swam and access to safety boats. Also the water quality is fantastic.
If you want to swim at Ellingham Lake you can just turn up and pay as you go but if you join NOWCA you can get access to reduced rates. You can join NOWCA online and then pick up a chipped wristband at the lake, which enables you to log yourself in and out of the water, and this can be preloaded with credits which speeds up arrival and checking. The lake has three courses marked out with buoys, the longest being a 1200m loop. The lake is also a waterski club, Ellingham Water Ski & Wakeboard Club, so swimming is only between 6am and 8am on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
It was pretty foggy when I arrived just after 6am so we just used one side of the course so we could be seen. I swam for an hour before being forced to retire as I developed the dreaded "claw" which is a condition that sees a loss of control and numbness of the fingers causing them to spread apart and bend, like a claw. A medical type person explained this to me as being something to do with the ulnar nerve that runs past your elbow getting too cold or perhaps trapped. I've only ever experienced this a couple of times and never on my coldest swims so I was surprised and will endeavour to get it checked out. However it made swimming impossible so it's a good job that I regularly practice one arm drills. Once I'd warmed up I was fine but it made getting changed afterwards difficult with trousers being particularly challenging, still hope nobody noticed that!
On the western edge of the New Forest just off the A338 about 2 miles north of Ringwood.
6am to 8am Monday and Saturday.
Club house with refreshments and changing rooms and showers.