Kimmeridge Bay is beautiful, and a perfect place to swim - a great place for just dipping or exploring or for a more serious training session. So when a "Beyond The Blue" Facebook event popped up on my news feed I needed very little encouragement. Well done to friend and swimmer Lisa North for organising everyone and even some sunshine too!
Beyond The Blue
Beyond the Blue is a Facebook group that normally meets at Shore Road near Sandbanks. It's a brilliant group with swimmers of all ages and abilities. There's no stuffiness or competition, people just do what they want and have fun with friends. The only prerequisite is that you need to have a have a sense of humour and enjoy getting wet.
Swimming with this group was for me especially poignant as they were partly responsible for setting me on my way in open water swimming in the first place. I'd always enjoyed swimming in the sea but it had always been a summer solo activity. But after finding the group almost by accident on Facebook I turned up at Shore Road on the Good Friday of 2013 slightly nervous of meeting a group of people who were obviously bananas. But people were very friendly and welcoming as they paraded around the beach, many wearing long black Dry Robes, extolling to me the virtues of cold water swimming, sunshine and cake.
So I bit the bullet and went for a dip. I think I managed about twenty minutes. The water that day in late March was around 7 or 8ºC and although I didn't find the cold so bad whilst actually swimming it was what happened when I got out that got me. When you swim in cold water vasoconstriction occurs and the blood supply to your limbs is restricted to protect your core temperature. But when you get out of the water the cold blood in your arms and legs starts to return to your core and that's when the shivers start! This is the phenomenon known as "after drop" At this time I wasn't acclimatised to the cold and, boy, did I shiver! I have to admit I'd turned up pretty poorly prepared and really suffered. But it wasn't long before someone had found me a Dry Robe (thanks Glenda) and a ready supply of hot chocolate and cake.
This Kimmeridge Bay swim did rather remind me of meeting Beyond the Blue three years ago at Shore Road. I've built up my cold water acclimatisation considerably since and now don't suffer too badly even after an hour's swim in early April. But I did chuckle because as soon as I got out of the sea, before I even took my goggles off, I was pretty much force fed a large piece of chocolate cake!
Kimmeridge Bay Swimming Tips
You can park for free in an old quarry on the left before you get into the village and then it's a 2km walk down to the beach. Or you can carry on down the private road and pay a £5 toll to park all day in the car park overlooking the Bay and then you're only a minute from the sea.
There's an underwater nature trail for snorkelers around the Bay and you can get information on this from the Purbeck Marine Wildlife Reserve Marine Centre. In fact you should go and take a look there anyway as it's very interesting and run by volunteers so don't forget to make a donation. There are also public toilets just off the lane that runs down to the slipway.
Tides can be complex here so educate yourself before you get into the sea. You can swim at any state of the tide though you should be aware that at low tide there won't be much water in the Bay so it will be more of a walk. The ideal situation is to swim from mid tide on the flood, that is to say on a rising tide. However, you can still swim across the Bay at low tide but this is perhaps for more experienced swimmers so make sure you take all the normal precautions regarding safety and knowing how to swim. You can find tide tables online for free or else buy a more comprehensive booklet locally.
Entry to the water is either from the middle of the beach or from the slipway near the visitor centre. I'd recommend the slipway option because water entry and exit is safest and easiest here.
If you swim across the mouth of the bay at it narrowest it's around 600m. If you want you can swim along the shore and out to Broad Bench but use a big dose of common sense... Kimmeridge Bay picks up a swell and the geology gives rise to the two good surf reefs, Broad Bench being one and The Ledges being the other. As well as being hairy for swimming you need to take extra care and attention when there's swell running as there'll be stronger currents. So buddy up but if in doubt, don't go there. There's also the more obvious danger of being run over by a surf board. Another great thing about Kimmeridge is that jet skis are banned. Jet skis and swimmers don't mix and the effect of a speeding jet ski on a swimmer's head is likely to cause a great deal of inconvenience, mainly for the swimmer.