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We chat with Laura Owen Sanderson; adventurer, environmentalist and founder of We Swim Wild

Laura Owen Sanderson

April 7, 2022

Laura describes herself as a wild swimmer, ‘waterlogger’, adventurer, environmentalist, company director, artist and a mum – sounds like an awesome job description to us!

She wasn’t always a passionate advocate of wild swimming though. In her previous life, she worked in a senior position in teacher training in Llandudno. It was a very busy and stressful career that eventually led to burn-out and Laura becoming extremely unwell with fibromyalgia, even needing a full blood transfusion at one point.

To help relieve her stiff joints a doctor suggested taking cold baths, which didn’t really appeal to Laura. She took her treatment into her own hands by swimming in the nearby sea and noticed it had a positive effect on her symptoms.

Laura soon became hooked on wild swimming, loving the sense of freedom and the beauty of her surroundings. Eager to help others experience this, she founded We Swim Wild, a not-for-profit that promotes open water swimming coupled with environmentalism.

Laura has taken part in various environmental research projects and is currently partnering with Bangor University, collecting water samples from the UK’s National Parks for testing for the presence of microplastics.

Listen in as she discusses burnout, her recent ADHD diagnosis and the importance of protecting what you love.

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FULL transcription

Just a quick reminder that you can watch the video of this podcast over at Youtube by searching call to adventure podcast Laura Wewim wild I've just got back from a week ski touring in shamany on our Threeday intro to ski touring course and it was mega. Gonna be very hard to go back on the piece after that interestingly when I told a lot of people that I was going ski touring and they were like what's what's that George and I said oh well, it's where you walk up the mountain and you don't use the ski lifts and a few people like why? Why would you do that that sounds like a really terrible idea but it's not It's an amazing idea because you get to go where nobody else does or very few other people do because not many people are willing to put the work in you get to just walk up across the mountain over one peak and then you've just got miles and miles of wilderness and you can access places that other people can't and. It really makes it feel very very special and adventurous. So if you like the sound of that we'll be putting a video together pretty soon so that'll be released in the next month or so or you can follow our trip and then if you like that then you can sign up for our newsletter and then you'll get dates about. Trip for next year so we've got the intro or the advanced or a few other the sski touringrypts if that floats you boat so now on to today's pod so today we're chatting with Laura Owen sanderson laura is a wild swimmer an adventurist environmentalist artist mum. And founder and director of we swim wild. So Laura welcome to the show.

Laura

Thanks for having me on your trip sounds amazing By the way.

calltoadventure

It was really good. Actually yeah it was it was brilliant I've wanted to go skitouring for ages and it got cancelled a couple of times because of Covid and then this time we finally got to go and it was just so good. Really really sunny and on the last day we went up so we went to shamani.

Laura

Yeah.

calltoadventure

And then we went up to a plate I gil do midi I don't really know how you say it. But that's that's that's how I say it. It's like three thousand eight hundred meters up this peak and you just go from pretty much like shamani village go up to the top there and then it's eleven kilometers skiing down from there so that was awesome.

Laura

I know I don'ty the area. Who are.

Laura

I've missed everybody goes skiing apart from me that I know maybe I should that should be my next thing I probably break my neck. So ah, we've Gotnna stay in the water.

calltoadventure

Really, really cool.

calltoadventure

So it's such a good I love it. It's one of my favorite things as well as alongside like surfing and climbing. It's definitely up there So one day you should. It's not that accessible that easy for for brits. But I mean one day you should You should give it a go put it on the bucket list.

Laura

I'll put on the Backet list indeed.

calltoadventure

So Laura we normally start with a few quick fire questions. So just the first thing that comes to mind just go for it. Okay, ready ketch up or brown source really.

Laura

Oh right? Okay, go brown source. Always yeah, can't have it with like an egg. Yeah always brown source. Yeah.

calltoadventure

It yeah that there's that's very divisive that 1 people always just like too sweet. Okay, what about white or brown bread.

Laura

Too sweet The red red sauce is too sweet scary brown sauce all the way. Yeah.

Laura

Depends If you've got hangover white if you date to a brown. Yeah, that's a bit foamy otherwise isn't it white bread. But yeah, if I yeah I normally go for white bread if I've got.

calltoadventure

Yeah I think I think I'm with you there most of the time. Ah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Laura

I Mean in the older I get the less hangovers I get because only because I don't drink so much for yeah, I'd say white for a hangover brown for you day to day top. Tip. Yeah.

calltoadventure

Okay, very good now we do a couple of these cards. So I've only done it once before they're just random questions So this is like the get to know you? Um, so I'm going to pull out some random ones and we'll and we'll see feel free to skip them if they're a bit.

Laura

Okay.

calltoadventure

Intense So we got first first one is are you competitive.

Laura

Of I don't think I am but then people tell me I am but I've just been diagnosed actually this is interesting with Adhd so I'm going to blame it on that. But um, yeah I think if I'm really into something then I can come across competitive so I'm really into it. But if I'm not interested in it then.

calltoadventure

Oh really.

Laura

You can win. But I think yeah, my my other half would probably tell you that I am competitive in a game and my kids but yeah, not intentionally you not intentionally.

calltoadventure

Did you? Yeah yeah, what made you think that you might have Adhd because it's it's quite late diagnosis for you to have it right? A lot of people get diagnosed when they're kids I guess we didn't really know so much about it when we were.

Laura

Yeah, yeah I think I think it's definitely overlooked for women women. It's slightly different I think everyone thought like at school you had to be bouncing off the tables which I wasn't but I was always super creative I've always been highly creative So in my former life before we did the nonprofit.

calltoadventure

Younger.

Laura

Ah, was an art teacher and head of art and different things like that. But um, yes I've always been super creative but of rubbish at life stuff or like stuff like trying to fit into boring life stuff like bills or yeah, just live stuff I feel like I'll do that later or yeah and I've always I liken it too.

calltoadventure

And.

Laura

I've only really noticed since I've gone freelance because when you're freelance you are your own kind of guide to everything. So um, yeah, it's like starting like 20 forest fires on one day and the next day starting 40 more and trying to put out 10 more and the next day starting

calltoadventure

Yeah, yeah.

Laura

500 more forest fires and and trying to put out the old ones and it was getting more and more like that as I got freelance because I just come up with more creative ideas more and more and then yeah, a friend of mine I don't know if you know the adventure of Lindsey Cole um she has it I'm sure she won't mind me saying um and she said and we were on an expedition in Scotland. When we spent like because we both have it. We would spend like 2 hours before I started the swim looking for our car keys or looking for it was just a nightmare as the 2 of us together and she said Laura I think you might have Adhd but I just laughed it off and then. You know as time went on I got a diagnosis which has been yeah, really good for me. Yeah, um, I'm on these I'm on the kids dose but um of Al Vance is like a tablet and you're like twenty Milligrams ah but

calltoadventure

Yeah, yeah, how how do they? What kind of treatment. Do they give you.

calltoadventure

Yeah, yeah.

Laura

I don't know where anyone else's brain is like so um, my brain would be like I've got to do this I've got to do this or I've got this idea I did do this and I'd go to sleep and as soon as I'd wake up, it'd be like oh I got to do this and I got to do it like 500 things and start again. So for me, it helps like.

calltoadventure

So.

Laura

Has the opposite effect. So I'm able to choose right? We're gonna do this and you're gonna finish it and then you're gonna do the next thing and you're gonna finish it rather than do a trillion things and not finish any of them. Yeah, so yeah, that's good.

calltoadventure

So yeah, it's really I think it's much more common than was previously thought right? a lot of people have it I know a lot of people have been diagnosed with it. So.

Laura

Yeah, in this country. Yeah in this country, especially it's been I Think there's loads of people that are not that are undiagnosed and now I have it I'm able to see like a lot of my friends I think you know that are really successful or that a lot of them are entrepreneurs.

calltoadventure

So.

Laura

Actually all adventurers or they like presenters on Tv or they're really good creatives. Um yeah I can see it in them. They're they're quite the same I think a friend of mine Jamie said that it's like there's nothing actually wrong with you but because your energy levels are so high or your like creative levels are so high that trying to live in this kind of system. That we have created as humans is the problem rather than which is true actually because it's when you want to you want to bring yourself down to do you know from your great ideas to do things like pay bills or file your taxes things that people don't mind doing anyway or quite.

calltoadventure

Yeah.

Laura

Like it would take every ounce of my being to do them and it would take me so much longer than everybody else. But I could like fire out a 0 ideas or you know I wrote a book last year in a few weeks. Got that done. You know if I'm really into it I can get it done. But if um, it's a mundane task. Yeah, the the effort that that entails. Yeah.

calltoadventure

And I completely agree with that. Ah, that idea because it's just that The modern world is very optimized for a certain type of person right? like you have to be able to sit down and it's quite unnatural. Only very recently have we like sat at desks.

Laura

Yeah.

calltoadventure

All day and in like 8 hours you're going to do this and like build this spreadsheet or do loads of things back to back like pay all these bills or do your accounts for the year that's so unnatural for a human being for the last like three hundred thousand years I don't think anybody would know whether a hunter-gatherer had Adhd or not.

Laura

Um, that's say j.

Laura

Um, yeah, but yeah I read that that they're saying that um that in those packs that that somebody must have had Adhd to be alert ah to know how true it is. It was in the guardian.

calltoadventure

Like everyone. Yeah.

calltoadventure

So.

Laura

Um, look out for like lines and things. But I did I noticed actually because I'm in a shared office now with loads of other nonprofits or they're like that's a forestry hub in a huleth but I share an office with them and I'd go into work. This is how I thought I've got to do something about this. So I'd go into work and the guy next to me Tim, who's great. He'd come in and be able to start work and I'd go in and I'd think god it's so quiet in it. Oh what's out the window and I spent an hour like and I'd just be looking at everyone thinking go how can they start work god it's so boring and then and then I'd start working be hyperfocused but it would take me an hour to be able to sit still and and um, yeah, and start once I start I get too focused and that's the other problem. What in Yeah yeah.

calltoadventure

So it's a bit like a superpower you' just got to wield it in the right way. Yeah, yeah, cool. Okay, let's go for one more. Ah is there anything you regret not.

12:54.14

Laura

Well I don't know if you know my story so I got really Ill And yeah so I I I used to have a boarding life I had a light but I mean it's It's fine for everybody everybody else, but you know when you you do something so I had.

calltoadventure

Doing due to fear.

calltoadventure

So let's let's let let's let's get into it.

Laura

This idea when I was young I was going to travel and do this and then I had my daughter really young when I was actually at university so I stayed and what I did then was I instead of going into career of like design and art I decided that I was travel and I would get a pgc and teach art. Because I knew that every country that I wanted to go to that was remote would have a school so I'd at least be able to work and travel so my first job was on an island called Saint Helena on the South Atlantic and my daughter was at 2 actually when we arrived there 2 or 3 and we say yeah, so anyway.

calltoadventure

Wow.

Laura

Um, anyway. So I had a career in teaching and I'd worked my way up and I was good at it so I was winning loads of awards and you know different things. It's probably my competitive side and I just knew you know when you know and you're doing something and I think I got so like I'm 40 now. But I got I remember getting to like 35 and thinking. No my god. So old like this is my life and I knew it wasn't my life if you know I mean you know you're doing a careern you think oh I'm so old now and I've just got to stay doing this but like deep inside I don't know where it came from I just knew it wasn't what I was supposed to be doing if that makes any sense at all.

14:16.60

calltoadventure

So.

Laura

Anyway because I get hyperfocused I like I overworked and on the last day term I'd been ill for about a month and I kept going back to the doctor and I went bo you with too much detail. But um I remember looking really ill and everyone was like god you feel like death Laura and ah and I was but I wanted to go to India for the summer

calltoadventure

Yeah.

Laura

So I worked and worked and worked and oh god I was I I was really ill and anyway the next day I was rushed into a and e which is the first day of the school holidays. So don't work too hard kids and ah yeah, so basically yeah I so I knew I was dying at one point I thought. Like you reach a point of calmness and I thought I'm actually and I felt really caught I knew it I just knew and I thought oh my god I'm I'm actually going to die and then rather than and you feel really calm. So if anyone is worried about dying. You actually feel really calm. So don't worry. But um I I just remember thinking it was like someone had like ripped open the curtain of oh my god you're not going to make it till you retire and you're not going to be able to do all those cool things and you you know those things you were putting off until you were thin enough so you were super fit until you go have your fear of being on camera so you. Just just a load of things in life that I'd put off I thought oh I'm never going to do them this like this is it and I've worried about what will other people think and I still suffer from that have to remind myself or what will you know? I've got to get get loads of money to do it. I've got to you know, get that house I've got to you know. XYEd because society had built this system that you kind of like everybody's in it was kind of like the matrix when you're like pulled out of it and then you can suddenly see like oh oh dear oh dear I've been a worka aunt.

calltoadventure

Yeah.

Laura

And Goodbye then um, yeah, so that was the overriding thought and then um, yeah, and then when I came back I thought right I'm I'm never going to I'm never going to do that ever again and so I tried to go back to work in my old. My old work teaching and just and it sounds awful and like hats off to all the teachers out there because we work up bit sides off but I just didn't believe in the system anymore and like what you were teaching what the things that people thought were really important and they would have huge meetings about I was just like God our life is so short And. We're in this concrete building talking about the most mundane things and we're all talking about it and it doesn't matter. But it's so hard to convey that to people who haven't had the same experience as you but still in the system and had I not had that experience I was probably one of the worst because I was one of the senior mentors in the school. So as part of the leadership team and I train all the young teachers and I was like yeah, keep working so when I went back I still had that job and I was like no don't just finish work. Go go and live your life and then come back fresh and so eventually I realized I mean I continued to be ill. Afterwards, which is what led me to swimming really? but um, yeah I continued to be ah Ill afterwards so it took me a while to get back up to speed and um, yeah I ended up leaving that job and tried I thought I'd just do something with purpose rather than which is what I'm trying to do now.

calltoadventure

Um, so.

Laura

Kint but trying. Yeah.

calltoadventure

Ah, the best way. Um, the it's It's really interesting I I agree with and I think I've experienced it to a lesser extent so that I think there are lots of catalysts that can help us have those realizations about how the way that we live is.

Laura

In.

calltoadventure

In some ways great. But there's a lot of insanity to it as well. It's just because everyone's doing it that it feels normal but travel I think is like probably the lowest form of thing that helps you realize that we don't all have to live in a certain way because you go and you just see other cultures and especially if you go somewhere. That's really different then you start to realize like oh wow.

Laura

M.

Laura

History.

calltoadventure

These people don't just sell their souls to go and compete with each other to go and get a big house and an expensive car like they just work in the family shop in the Bolivia in the middle of Bolivia or Panama and they're just like they seem pretty happy and yeah, they don't need all these possessions and that that gives you some kind of.

Laura

Yeah.

Laura

Happy.

calltoadventure

Realization and then adventure turns that up a little bit more and you have a kind of different insight from often near death experiences or at least very dangerous experiences and you can realize like if that went badly today we probably wouldn't have been here and. Most people who are into the outdoors and adventure have had at least a few experiences like that and that helps you have one of these mini realizations and then there's meditation as well. Which is something else that I found that helps me escape the matrix and look at things a little bit differently as well. But then I'd imagine even higher is like the experience that you've had which is really being close to dying and then having that realization slap slap you in the face extremely rudely.

Laura

Yeah, but I'm glad it did or else I still I I do feel quite fortunate because not everybody has has somebody come and like shake them of what I describe as like a deep slumber and say right? This is it like this is not.

calltoadventure

M.

Laura

Ah, dress rearsal like get out and do everything you want to do was you here? Well she still got your health for a start because I think a lot of people put things off until oh I'm thin enough right? I'm a train and you know you might end up being like 80 and thinking you oh no I didn't do these things and now I can't physically do it. So yeah I feel quite fortunate actually that i.

calltoadventure

M.

Laura

Had that experience because I think I was so deeply entrenched in the system that had I not I'd still be there now like unhappy and yeah, flogging myself to death in a different way. Yeah.

calltoadventure

So yeah, yeah, it's it's it's it's funny isn't it those experiences that can seem the worst at the time can be really valuable in the long term if people are thinking Well I don't necessarily want to go and have a.

Laura

Mean.

Laura

Well yeah I wouldn't recommend trying to have a de death experience I mean why? yeah fake take it just listen to my story and that yeah yeah.

calltoadventure

Near-death experience though then I completely get hopefully conversations like this go at 5

calltoadventure

Um, yeah, yeah, listen to stories get try and get inspired recent travel do some adventure and if people are interested in meditation. One of the things that um, so I really recommend starting with the headspace app to learn all the foundations and then going on to something like Sam Harris is waking up. And on Sam Harris's waking up app they have this thing where you do daily guided meditations for 20 minutes but then he also has these things called mindful reminders and it comes on at random throughout the day and in it's a 1 minute or thirty second clip and he says something similar to like what you just said like you will never be here again. 1 ne day you're going to die. Do what you want to do and it's just little things like that and they're always at different times in the day and it's so good for removing you from the day sleep of normal life. So I'm loving those I only got them recently. But they're they're brilliant.

Laura

Yeah I do think that um as a society. There's 1 thing that we never talk about or we're all scared of but the only thing we all have in common without a doubt is that we are all at some point going to die is just how you you know whether it's going to be your pajamas at ninety or.

calltoadventure

Really right.

Laura

You know like I think it's only 2% but yeah I I talking about meditation so I would always struggle with meditation and I'd try it and try it and try it. Um, but I realized when I got this Adhd that another reason that I go swimming was to switch off my brain. So for me actually swimming outdoors in the cold.

calltoadventure

M.

Laura

So kind of like you're in the moment arresting that that was meditation which is what I've realized since and being diagnosed that for me that was meditation because I'd struggle so hard to I'd start off with great. Is it Andy what's his name from headspace. And start off really well. But obviously I couldn't sit still too long, but um, yeah, same meditation for me was swimming swim. Yeah which you'll get on to. But yeah.

calltoadventure

Yeah, yeah, oh really cool? Yeah, yeah, that's that that's great advice and something that I know a lot of people struggle with sitting there doing that kind of stuff and I think the physical version like wild swimming.

Laura

Yeah.

calltoadventure

Ah, cold water swimming is a great option. So yeah, let's let's dig into it So how did you you you had this event and this illness and then kind of made your way back to better health. But then how did you actually get into wild swimming specifically.

Laura

So I had um a series of like blood transfusions anyway, down the line I started to get um, really swollen muscles and I could barely walk. It was going from being fit to like even going to the bathroom I feel like all contorted. Um. So that was really difficult and I kept going to the doctor and they kept sending me to like the arthritis cleaning they tried everything and then and I was just getting quite down about it because I thought this is just like come on good tell if you if you know what's wrong with you then you can and a young doctor. I think she was a trainee actually she just happened to be on and she was she said on you know at the gp surgery and she said have you tried cold showers and I've never I still can't have a cold shower now I mean with the tiles and it's just no, um, but for me. I lived on the I live on the coast or I'd lived on the coast I've just moved in man a bit now. Um and I've always loved the sea and I just saw I just get in the sea and it coincided meeting a woman called Jo Ann actually who was up visiting and she dragged me out actually for the first swim because I was always it was. It was like winter coming up to winter and it was wild on the West Coast and I thought oh you could never get in there. You'll get washed away or did it. Ah, and yeah, she took me in and it was just amazing and then the sea water and I still swear if you've got joints or if you've been you know people who do a lot of sport or whatever if you've got problems with joints. Um, sea salt water is sea salt water. You only get sea salt water if you're in the sea. But ah, that's the best water and it lasts for days and and then because it was the winter I decided to go into the mountains because it's snowonia I'm talking about which aren't far. You got the Rinos behind like Harleck Beach from and then you've got. Um, obviously central snowdonia um, so I ended up going into the mountains when I couldn't go to the sea. You know when it was too wild or it was like the you know the tide was out whatever um and cold water mountain swimming also helped with like joints and things but seasaw was. By far the best for that kind of thing. But for me, it was also the kind of meditat meditative. You know as you were doing it and I could think and now I know that I day d d I think um because when I started taking the tablets which I don't recommend everybody do I did start to think oh that looks cold. Do I want to go in and that's never happened to me before and then I read. That's how I I put the 2 together that it was more about um the kind of the calmness it would switch my brain off for however, long I was in that and that's how I got into it really? Um, yeah.

Laura

And the more time I'd started snowonia beach clean with another girl and we started cleaning up those areas and then the the higher I went the water was was crystal clear and some of the rivers and lakes around here. And it was in the news. A lot of the time like for example about plastic we were finding so much plastic on the beach that um, plastic never goes away and I wondered what that meant and um and then I decided to swim from snowden to the sea to highlight the plastic pandemic. And I found a local scientist had just come out in the news that he'd been testing for microplastics. So I decided not long after I think it was a year after I'd been ill that I would this is probably Adhd I made life decision in 30 seconds without any risk assessment. I thought um I would swim from snowden to the sea and that's what I did and then when we found it was before a lot of the research had come out about microplastics being everywhere. It was before a month before it came. They'd found it at the Alps. Um, and then I decided to do. Yeah I decided I run a company as well. At the time called wild Tim Snowdonia which has since closed because I wanted to do I wanted to have more purpose and for me that was protecting the places that I loved or got so much from and then I realized there was a whole community of people who also wanted to do the same. Um and that's how we swim wild my nonprofit. I started came about which I've gone completely off piece don't I I should let you talk.

calltoadventure

Really cool. No that No, that's all the all the stuff that I want to hear about no, that's that that's that's really awesome. So yeah, we'll definitely dig into all of that. But um, taking a step back to the wild swimming stuff. So what is it about cold water swimming.

Laura

Yeah.

calltoadventure

That's different to swimming in normal warm water. Obviously it's cold but what but but what is it that.

Laura

Well went but it's warm watch I think most people would just want to get in. Ah for me, it was I just I don't know if you've done it but anyone that has has done it is you've never felt more alive. So for me, it was a combination so it made me feel and I'd always done kunda. I felt alive when I got out I like it would bring you back from the coziness of the mundane because it's so easy. So so easy to slip back into the system. Um and that for me was 1 thing that would remind me like boom you know you get all of your senses going. Ah, you'd be up a top of a mountain and you're not supposed to swim in your own. But I if I someone and I'd just be like yes right I am alive this is you know there's nothing more kind of arresting than that I think and also in nature. So for me a cold cold show doesn't cut it for me so being in the wild being. You know, just reminding yourself. You are part of nature for some reason that humans have created this idea or this system that nature's 1 place that you go like a reserve or it's over there and we live here and that's over that you know like we are a sense we are nature. We are animals and and we've tried. For a long time to like I think and that's I think that's half the problem with society or like mental health or wellbeing is that we've started to put this competitive edge in where we've forgotten about community sometimes and we've forgotten about nature which is half the reason I think people just don't connect the dots with with the things in nature. You know with like human impact and it's just about going back to that. Really so for me. Yeah there's nothing that often make you feel more alive than getting into some cold water and having a good dunk. Yeah for sure. So that was key. Yeah.

calltoadventure

So yeah, especially in the mountains and doing it outdoors I know it I did try cold showers for a while um I did it for I I did it before Wim Hof kicked off I think it was like ten years ago or something I read the 4 hour body by Tim Ferriss and he was.

Laura

Nay.

Laura

I.

calltoadventure

Like cold showers are really good for you. So I was living in ah in a student uni house in it was like a council house in Leeds and it was freezing and we did cold showers for six months or a year and there was no like technique behind it. No breathing. It was just like.

Laura

Um.

Laura

Screen.

calltoadventure

Put rocky soundtrack on and just jump in and like shout and scream a lot and then after about I can't remember how long we did it for either half a year or a year and then I was like I think I've done with this now and then Wim Hof came around and I was like oh this is quite cool I love this guy. He's amazing. Um, so I tried it a little bit but then.

Laura

Yeah, he's great.

calltoadventure

For me I also had never really managed to stick to that whereas wild swimming and outdoor swimming and cold water swimming outdoors really spoke to me I think in the same way that it that it did for you in the way that you described before there's something very very special about it and shocks you into this.

Laura

Yeah, yeah.

calltoadventure

Moment of like presence stops your internal dialogue and really gets you involved with whatever's going on around you. So I've really loved getting into wild swimming. But I think a lot of people are scared and intimidated and.

Laura

Um, yeah.

calltoadventure

And some I think you do have to look be respectful of it now that it's kind of really taking off seen a few and well ah, increase in fatalities last year so what advice would you give to people who are looking to get into it but haven't maybe done very much before.

Laura

We've got so I'm also now at this point in my journey I'm might say a beach and open water lifeguard. So we I've written some things on our website if you go to http://wewimmod.org. There's a whole water safety in this There's a swimm with us tab. But there's a dropdown with videos and there's also um. There's advice for different water bodies to keep you safe. Um, one of the main ones just for like runoff and nasties and things is don't swim after heavy rain for 48 hours you need to leave it two days to clear even if you're in like rural areas because you've got agricultural runoff. You could have a sheep coming down the top. Have any debris because the force of the water will take you know from the mountains for the time it comes down takes a long time. Um, you should always swim with a swim buddy because a lot of these remote places don't have signal and if you get into any difficulty you need to be able to you know have somebody with you that can look after you make sure people know where you are. It depends so we have a section with different water bodies because they're all different. So for the sea. For example, you have tides and rips to contend with um so it's really I find the people that get into trouble are the people who haven't got the knowledge. So I think if you're going to do it. It's really important that you have the knowledge beforehand otherwise you know your.

calltoadventure

So.

Laura

Um, how getting off to the best start as is so head to that area and read about it. Um, so you've got rips and tides and looking at the best time to go I would say as a general rule of thumb. It would be a slack tide but it completely depends on the geography of your beach or location so you really need to do some local. Ding around for that so slack tide is an hour before high tide an hour after and that's when there's kind of less movement in the tide but you can't take that as a general rule for every beach because you really need to know the geography of your beach. So if you head there, you'll find out and the r and Ali are great. Um, if you're ever stuck in a rip. I mean I could go on for hours which I don't take up your whole podcast. So maybe just go to the website but with a river again. It's moving so you're got to plan beforehand like where are you goingnna get in where are you going to get out. Always do the hard bit First. So if you're getting in always look for a gently shelving um entry point and exit point. Because you will lose the power in your limbs if you stay cold water or lose the power in your limbs. So if you've dropped down even from a small ledge. You'll find it really difficult to pull yourself back up. Um, so always look like worst case scenario where you could find something where you could literally roll yourself out. Um.

calltoadventure

So.

Laura

Yeah there's loads of different things head there read all that head also head there are in a light and and kind of get the knowledge. Um, before you go those are key key I think and don't overdo it when you first get in I think some people try and be a hero There's something you can definitely build up pure acclimatization. So go in even if it's like a minute or 2 for the first time um, cold water shock passes that feeling after the first like minute or 2 so when you first get in you know I get people to splash water on themselves and their face and then they get up to we do box breathing but on the shore because the worst thing you want to do when you get in. Is your initial urge when I take we we take people on guided tours called introduction. It's about water safety and when they first gain that the initial gasp is to go and then when you're in the water and you don't want to inhale any water so we do box breathing before you get in and whilst you're in. And then as you get to your shoulders on the exhale you drop your shoulders and then you tread water there vigorously for a minute or 2 until that feeling passes and you feel comfortable to swim. Um and that helps people who maybe get anxious or maybe are likely to panic and go. Because that's what you're trying to avoid they not inhale any water and those but yeah, but there's loads of tips. You need to read so go ahead there and read them.

calltoadventure

Yeah. Sounds like a great resource. Yeah, we'll link to that and go and take a look um another thing if people are looking for where to swim so the rivers trust down from the rivers trust is coming on in a couple of weeks so looking forward to that chat, but they've just um, produced and published.

Laura

Is.

calltoadventure

River. Quality rating map so you can go and have a look at the how dirty your local rivers are um and or or not hopefully is the case. But um as we'll hear about in that episode the state of our rivers is not particularly good so will but we. Think we can dig dig into that in a minute with the kind of research and stuff that you've done but before we do Um, what is the for you. The link between wild swimming and environmentalism.

Laura

As simple as protecting What you love? really?? Um I Think if you spend any time in nature if you like doing something be a surfer or a mountain climber or you you love those places which is why you do it and then I think. People who don't or ever disconnect with wanting to haven't experienced it So That's another thing that we're all about is trying to get more people out into well places because I think immediately once you're there you you have an affinity with it I don't think I've ever met anyone who hasn't That's that had the experience and not everyone gets that experience. So. Trying to work on that to try and get everybody to have the same you know to it to be accessible to everybody. Um, because I think there's real power in that that once you have experienced it. You want to protect it. So for me, it's always been that simple. Yeah.

calltoadventure

So yeah I see it completely the same way. We actually have the whole protect what you like it's amazing. How many people come to the same even language like I I don't think our paths have crossed before and yet we have on our about us page. It says you know protect what we love and I think we. We hear different messages and then they kind of stick in our subliminals and our subconscious and I'm sure I heard it somewhere else first. But I thought oh yeah I like that. But the the realization given that we're on this kind of shared mission I think is. Is really really powerful and something that I've seen like we used to do talks on climate change for kids for example and um, a bit of activism and it wasn't it was always difficult to really connect with people. But then when you take people out say s skitoring and then you can see the.

Laura

Yeah.

calltoadventure

Retreat of the glacier and on the side of the the wall when you climb up the stairs at the end to to the to the train once you've done the valley blanche Eleven kilometers it has all of these things on the wall with the glacier was here in 9095 here in 2000 here in 2005 and it is just.

Laura

So.

Laura

I Think you're seeing pictures of that. Yeah yeah.

calltoadventure

So powerful in a way that more stats and figures could never be and you just think Wow that is that is retreating so fast and it really hits everybody very very hard So the experiential knowledge I think is is the way to go to really help people have those.

Laura

Man.

Laura

Yeah, we have um, that's why I wrote the pobble door program which means water people in welsh um because I'd obviously talked for so long in a classroom and occasionally we were allowed to go out if you had a 500 page like risk assessment and a two months ahead of time plan.

calltoadventure

Epiphanies and realizations.

Laura

So when it used to be really sunny I'd be like oh can we not go out like no um and I'd also worked for another company and you took them to the beach which was good and you you talked about it. But so I wrote the program and we all got trained up so that we could actually take them in the water snorkeling. Because I think that was way and it has been way more impactful than we stood on the beach saying under there. There are these creatures under that you know, um, these are the issues. The water faces. So Yeah I Totally agree with you giving people.

calltoadventure

M.

Laura

Kind of skills to be able to go and actually experience it themselves is key to I think future protection of wild places.

calltoadventure

Yeah, and how about the research side so you touched on it a little bit before and the microplas ah side of things. So what research have you kind of delved into and and touched on.

Laura

Um, I think we all know the state of yeah uk waters probably 1 of the worst despite all the beautiful pictures. Um, so we're currently working on a program and we're looking at different ways to fund our work so we're such a small grassroots organization that we think. The biggest act kind of impact that we'll have will come from grassroots community level at people showing people in their own local river this is what's here the these the issues our face so issues our waters face. So um. Yeah, so it came about in a really weird way. Actually so I decided to do adventure activism campaigns because they were pretty good at highlighting some of the issues are waters faced so I took two months when when was covid nice so long ago wasn't last year as a year before I could forget like where were we been at anymore. what what is

calltoadventure

Yeah, yeah.

Laura

But has happened to the world and um I decided to swim every national park. This is another adhd trait where you make a massive bold claim you and then you go out and do anything flip itne. Um, so so I did ah snowonia I did the Claire di. And I actually got ill because it was heavy rainfall and this is why shouldn't swim of the heavy rainfall but I had to because um, a single parent and any single parent or any parent will actually tell you that getting your own parents to babysit for you is so hard that once you've got it. You don't want to turn back around. It's. You'll never believe again. So um I done bracken but then no yet then I went ever to bracken which had its own issues with like chicken farming. Um, then I went up to Scotland and by then I'd pulled a muscle at my trapeia and I could barely barely even swim at this point. And um, my kayak safety supported quick because it was really hard work and they hadn't realized um so it was a nightmare I was had with all these problems by didn't anyone can go home. So um I called a friend who was an adventurer and we like paid her to paid her to come for the rest of the trip. But we only managed a week so we went up to Scotland and we swam that and they're some really good swimmers and she was inviting them to come along and honestly I could barely walk. Let a alone swim because my the doctor told me to stop stop swimming because um, it was gonna get worse and I couldn't rotate my arm but i. Insisted that I continue for childcare reasons and I swam as at the cairngorms and then I went over to lock lomond which if that is the longest lake free day I'd swim so far and then I'd be like flipping it I don't feel like we're even like.

calltoadventure

Never never.

Laura

Touching the size of this is so took for so long. Um, and then I'm the only person who was pleased to that we went into complete lockdown. So as soon as I'd finished I was heading to Northumberland and the government was basically like you're all in lockdown so we had to go home. And everyone was like just carry on us like no no I must take these things seriously and I live time like hard and barely walking at that point so I was the any place. Yeah, my hands? Yeah, but I can't remember if who's even Boris in charge at the time. But yeah Boris says so that's the only time I've listened to Boris but yeah, so I had to go home.

calltoadventure

Ah, government regulation hands are tied.

Laura

And um, then I was kind of stuck because england have you've got 10 national parks and Scotland only had 2 long ones and Wales only had three so I had 10 more to do so I decided right? we wanted to get this data and at that point we'd had so much traction from. Swims um, that yeah we decided like why? Why do I need to go to all of these places. Why don't we just ask people to send it in and we we've never really had any money we had a bit of funding for that trip from a sports brand Orca and we had some from hydrofllascu've helped us out. Um, but we didn't really have any money so we had to ask everyone to send them in wine bottles and then I had to I had to pay for Everyone's postage which was like 16 and thirty quid and we had so many people and it was just a really It was kind of a hit and miss. Because we had the labs where we could test them but we couldn't get to people so some bottles smashed some got lost some postal people were like what is this sending water. We're not delivering it. So it's really it was a really tricky way of doing it and an expensive and probably not the. Most environmentally friendly way of doing it. You think about sick because they had to send four litres of water in so we had all these wine bottles arriving I think Kristen could hardly move in the labs At 1 point he was like cursing me and they took they take an hour per bottle and it took so long. We've only just had the results from that from that study. Um, but it basically showed up what what we kind of knew. But for me, it was about showing people but in their own communities at their own level like yes, there is that you can't see it so what we're looking at is crystal clear water. In the fastest flowing part of the waterway. So basically it's really hard to capture because they're moving. We're not capturing from the edge where you would get a buildup you know, naturally the way water moves is actually in in where the kind of cleanest the fastest bit. So um, yeah, so that study was all about showing people that under. So under fluorescent lights with like quite high-powered microscopes. You could see the amount of like Nano and microplastics in that water per litre I think the highest from that study was the nine one hundred and fifty five pieces per litre um and the lowest was the lakes. But I think. Again with citizen science. It's kind of like lakes are so big that it's probably put you know so it's um, yeah, but it was ah and what we're trying to do with that data is get the government to test for microplastics as an emergent contaminant like they do for nitrates and phosphates.

calltoadventure

Yeah, yeah.

Laura

There's always my um, understanding of it which I didn't appreciate at the start was that you need to get government to make the legislat legislation changes I can never say legislative changes in order to change the way like materials are used or businesses are allowed to Operate. Um, so that's kind of the only way So at the moment we're working at a grassroots level trying to get everybody to write to their local mps and get them on Board. Um, so they can raise it in the houses of parliament and I know there's some other bigger organizations working on the same thing now. So That's brilliant news. Um yeah, but.

calltoadventure

Really cool. How are the how are microplastics mainly getting into the waterways.

Laura

There's still not enough research on it. It's kind of still quite early days but you can get it from so so primary which is like before you know secondary when it breaks down so primary you've got um, we've got poster on our website that you can go on to and see. So it can come from like manufacturing products I know they've stopped making the beads in this country in a lot of like beauty products but you can get it from factory like Ash from plastic factories. You can get it from um the secondary would be like 1 of the worst things especially in the outdoor world is synthetic. Fibers. So fast fashion is massively huge because your washing machine is releasing like I think it's like was it forty Thousand Seventy Thousand every single wash they'll release micro so it's it's plastic clothing especially um and they always green wash it and say it's vegan clothing. Yeah yes. But is also plastic made of fossil fuels. So we're trying to link it There's lots of ways. So broken down bigger piece of plastic because they never go away just keeps breaking down in smaller pieces and then you've got like from the manufacturer you got car tires which is another big one. So people think they're mainly rubber, but it's actually the plastic comes from those as well up nearroads which is. Why we think the river nene was so high because it where it was it was past a flyover. Um, so yes, loads of different ways. But we're linking it back to the whole climate change issue because um, the way that plastic is produced and you know it's gonna like climate change through. You know greenhouse gases from plastic production alone in the next few years it's going to be worse than the shipping and aviation industry combined That's how you know how how it is linked because I think people don't they just think it's a littering issue and it's not It's for me, it's a misuse of a material same with nitrates and phosphates and like farming and fertilizers and. Um, there are I know the government have just changed like the law on that because we get a lot of agricultural runoff. It's just the misuse of materials and chemicals that end up in our waterways and it's trying to make that link so we have um the water gods campaign is about to start. Where we've got people. Um, we're trying to fundraise for at the moment. So we've only started off with 30 and then hopefully we'll get local businesses to sponsor their local waterlogger for a twelve month pack and it allows them for like once a month they'll they'll test their water for a range of different silent contaminates. And when I say silent contaminants I mean you can't necessarily see them. Um, and we're also doing like cleanups along the river and collecting that data. But we're also doing biodiversity studies and the reason that we're doing by this by citizen science biodiversity studies is because you know.

Laura

When there is chemical buildup or toxins. The first signs are that your fish are dead. The bee population has been wiped out. You know those are key signs and also in this country we're set to lose like a quarter of our you know population of kind of. Animals and vertebrates from that are on the red list. So yeah, it kind of all for for me all interlinks. It's not just 1 thing like water quality or it's not just 1 thing like oh you're looking at plastic kind of for me. There is generally just trying to um, be better humans really. And better use of the way that we live and and join up the dots because I think when when things are maybe so like land use. We're only actually allowed to swim in 3% of rivers legally so most of us are unnecessarily you know, unnecessary unknowingly trespassing.

calltoadventure

And.

Laura

So you know we've got probably really good eyes on the ground to say what's happening on a day-to-day level in those areas. So I think it can be quite powerful um grassroots level.

calltoadventure

Yeah, really cool. So 1 thing quickly before I forget is that if people are wanting to do something about microplastics is guppy bags are a really good solution so you can wash if you already have things that are synthetic or. You have like a quick drying microfiber towel something like that is like 1 of the worst offenders but you can buy these little guppy bags and then you put your clothes in there and then wash them and then the microplastics already get stuck in that. So ideally, just don't buy any more stuff like that. But if you've already got some stuff then it's.

Laura

Just don't buy stuff in general. Yeah, if you've got trying to think what you could do so try. Yeah, if you want to buy something new. Try and find um, something from natural materials. So like a wall jumper much better. Um, and it lasts longer trying to avoid fast fashioning because that lasts about 5 seconds anyway

calltoadventure

Yeah.

Laura

Um, try and refill for good. So We say so buy a reusable flask instead of like keep buying you know like so you know on the go water bottle sandwiches because you you know it doesn't go go away when it goes in the bin. Um. Yeah, just try and be more mindful if you're out in the environment enjoying it anyway.

calltoadventure

So if people want to get involved in the water logger project. How do they do that if they want to become a water logger.

Laura

So occasionally we do big camp scientific campaigns which we where we test for like we just did with the microplastics but generally we're asking you to sign up to be a waterlogger and you were asking you to do that biodiversity study and a cleanup once a month so if you're part of a. Swimming group. You could be the waterlogger for your swim group and then you go back onto our website which will be up in the next two weeks when we launch and you can upload that data and we'll use that to make a change and there's also will be a ton of resources on there so you can get your local mp on board and involved. Um because I think that's the only way. Make big waves is as collectively as individuals at grassroots pockets around the country. We're all doing the same thing and then our local representative is supposed to be the voice of the people. So hopefully they'll take that then so there has a parliament and we can start um, looking at legislation changes in the way materials are used. And also at community level I think raising it in the local paper. You know what you found, you never know you might find you find that you've got a huge watervo population that's on the red list. You know it could be a positive as well. Um, so yeah, just head to our swim activist tab and there's a dropdown of resources and the biodiverity one will start in the next two weeks so yeah that would be great for anyone wants to join.

calltoadventure

Really cool. Awesome Well good to end on something that we can do about all of this because it can often seem like doom and gloom. But there are lots of amazing projects going on kind of big and small. So I am encouraged with how many.

calltoadventure

Initiatives there are and the fact that there's a lot of great organizations and people trying to do the good work to turn the oil tanker even though it's pretty late in the day we should have done stuff a long time ago, but we are where we are but don't be disheartened. And if people want to get involved and do some citizen science which I think I will do that sounds awesome I want to give that go then you can visit we swim wild and we'll link in the show notes as well. But Laura if people want to find out a little bit more about you. Um, where's the best place for them to go.

Laura

Um, yeah.

Laura

Yeah, if you head to http://weswimwd.org and we've got everything on there from our swim safety tab to our like swim activist tab where you can get involved. Um, so there's loads of information on that we do publish a magazine and we have our own podcast. Although we're not as. Slick or as a regular as you and go manage to doing 4 in about a year and a half but I'm going to be more regular. So yeah, there's lots of just lots of resources on there that that can get you started and you can just be part of the team because and the more people that are involved the better.

calltoadventure

Very cool, awesome! Well thanks, very much for coming on Laura it's been great to chat and listeners. Thank you for taking the time tuning in so until next time thanks for listening bye bye. Awesome.

Laura

And thanks having me.

Laura

Sorry you gave me a sip of beer and I went off in a tangent a few time. Ah, ah.

calltoadventure

Thanks Laura and.

calltoadventure

Ah, they they were great I loved I Loved the tangents they're They're always some of the most interesting stuff. So no, no, it was it was brilliant. It was really really good. Thank you I really enjoyed chatting and hearing about a bit of everything I think people love to hear about wild swimming stuff.

Laura

Yeah.

calltoadventure

And a bit about your story. But then it's really cool What you're doing in terms of like the Citizen science stuff and thinking about how we can champion environmental change. That's all the stuff that I spend all day thinking about too. So it's really really awesome to see that you guys are on the mission.

Laura

Okay I forgot to mention we're going down the deepest caves this year I totally forgot that one we're going down there. We found microplastics in like rock filtertered water. What are the water logs did actually um so we're going down in this one and deepest 1 in Scotland England Wales and

calltoadventure

And and doing a really good job.

Laura

Think Northern Ireland or less I'm not sure yet ban online it yeah to to? yeah tip out. Yeah, just to further like you know what? the media is like the more you can like drill it home. Um, they just like a hook really don't they but in what you can say look is even.

calltoadventure

Wow! Very cool and just to see if there's see how many microplastics there are there.

Laura

In rock filtered because so I think people still think that when we're looking at Microplastics we're looking at actual pieces you can see they don't realize that we're we're trying to say that it's yeah we can't see Yeah, you can't see it but it doesn't mean it's not there same with like chemicals isn't it like agricultural and other onoff. But.

calltoadventure

Yeah, yeah, a coke lid.

calltoadventure

Yeah, yeah, yeah, it is it is crazy and can be overwhelming and a bit scary sometimes but um, yeah, we've certainly got some big challenges on our plate haven't we but we've only got 1 choice and that's to.

Laura

Yeah.

Laura

Yeah, there. Yeah I think our key was to like put it back in the hands of like normal people because they're the people who spend the time there. There was kind of a gap I felt between Academia and.

calltoadventure

Deal with them. So awesome that people like you are doing some really cool stuff like this.

Laura

The people in the labs and the people on the ground So that's what we're trying to to like give them the tools they feel you know they can feed into meaningful data and also you know so they can protect what they love because they they would always ask me like what can I do? What can I do So we're trying to build up the resources on there so they.

calltoadventure

Um.

calltoadventure

Yeah.

Laura

Without them having to.

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