Great North Swim, Lake Windermere, England
Charlie Stainforth, June 30, 2011
Following events in Suffolk and Salford, the 2011 Great Swim Series swung north to England’s largest lake and premium open water swim location, Lake Windermere. With a completed swim at the Great East event under my belt, I was eager to head up north to start what turned out to be a full week in the Lake District. The swim at Windermere promised to be equally challenging and, with an entourage of my friends there to support, I was eager to race well.
Unlike the Great East’s course at Alton Water Park which took swimmers out to the middle of the lake in a loop, the course in Windermere ran parallel to the shoreline, aiding my friends in their frantic support as I pushed for home to better my Suffolk time. The course setup helped maintain an excellent atmosphere throughout the three-day event and stood as a testament to the scale and quality of the event as a holiday option for many. This scale was represented by the increase in food stalls and facilities in the event arena, as well as in the placement of a small grandstand of seating next to the start.
Matching the family atmosphere of the event, the swim itself catered for all levels of swimmers from first timers to experience elites. In my wave alone at least half of the participants put their hands up when asked if it was their first open water swim. I did feel a little intimidated when, on keeping my hand down, a dozen pairs of eyes darted around the group to suss out the competition. Judging by the success of the event, I couldn’t help feeling that there were a few swimmers like myself, taking from their first open water event a thirst to do another.
I would rate Windermere as the best location of the Great Swim series events. With travel and sports on the agenda, Windermere’s position in the Lake District is splendid enough to convince even the most adamant hydrophobes to get in the water.
For race entry, head to greatswim.org. For accommodation, see Visit Cumbria, a tourism website for the area. Due to the scale of the event, parking and dropping off at the site is prohibited on the days of the events. Cycling to the event start area is allowed, and the nearest train station is Windermere.