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Outdoors

Life after dark: The night wild swimmer and her love for Loch Venachar

As the clocks go back, we interview people who come into their own after the sun has gone down. reports.
Gayle Ritchie
Women swimming in Loch Venachar.
Jenny Paterson founder of Wild Wimmin Swimmin Image: Jenny Paterson

Swimming in Scotland’s chilly lochs through autumn and winter – in the pitch dark – is no mean feat.

And it’s a weekly joy for Jenny Paterson.

Jenny, who lives in Alva, Clackmannanshire, has been indulging in moonlit dips since she and her friend Heather Dewar founded Wild Wimmin Swimmin in 2020.

The 3,000 member all-female group seeks to revolutionise health and wellbeing through wild swimming.

Night swimmer: ‘why let darkness stop us?’

“We were going out at 6pm and when the clocks went back, we thought, ‘why let darkness be the thing that stops us?” says Jenny.

“I’ve never been one to get up at 5am in the pitch black to go for a swim, but there’s something amazing about evening swims.

Jenny Paterson, founder of Wild Wimmin Swimmin, poses in a hat and dryrobe on the lochside.
Jenny Paterson, founder of Wild Wimmin Swimmin.

“Sometimes you get spectacular autumnal evenings where the sun’s setting and everything’s orange. We’ve had some absolutely jaw-dropping sunsets.

“And with the mountains rising up around the loch – we normally go to Loch Venachar – it’s pretty magical.”

There are many other wild swimming spots in Tayside and Fife to try too.

Night-time swimming ‘heightens the senses’

Jenny says darkness brings a “whole new dimension” to swimming.

Your senses are heightened and you become acutely aware of the extreme coldness, the silence, and the beauty of the setting.

“If it’s one of those nights where the moon’s bright, you see silhouettes of mountains, shooting stars and the milky way, it’s magical,” she reflects.

“One night we saw fireworks at the top of the loch which added to the experience.”

Safety first

There’s always a safety briefing before swimmers head for the loch. They all wear head torches and have a torch in their tow float so it lights up like a neon glow worm.

Jenny Paterson (L) with members of Wild Wimmin Swimmin.
Jenny Paterson (L) with members of Wild Wimmin Swimmin. Image: Jenny Paterson.

Lamps are dotted around the shore as a point of reference for swimmers to return to.
It’s important not to get too cold – hypothermia in no laughing matter.

“You don’t want to stay in the water too long, especially if you’re not wearing a swimsuit,” warns Jenny.

Don’t get cold

“It might be 15 or 20 minutes or less. If myself and Heather start to feel a bit cold, we’re confident other people should be thinking about getting out.

“Then it’s important to dry off quickly and warm up. We do that with hot soup, a drink and a sweet treat and a blether.

“Once we’ve got some heat in our bellies we head off home.”

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