#30NightsWild is a little project to wild camp and wild swim every day in June, telling a little story about each night, and making a little film along the way. I spent my second night by the Harlaw Reservoir, in the Pentlands.


MY FIRST WILD SWIM OF THE YEAR

For me it’s the chest. The feet and legs are always fine. It’s pleasant, even, at that point. The cock and balls should be bigger shocks to the system than they are and any wincing quickly subsides, perhaps as they bury themselves to avoid the worst of it. The torso, still fine, except now there is the knowledge that the chest is next, a looming, brooding minor sort of panic sweeps the body and sets off alarm bells everywhere.

“the skin tingling all over, every nerve ending alive and on fire, the whole body a giant singing sensation”

The pulse rises and the breath quickens, and as the icy water slowly creeps upwards as I walk further out, enveloping everything up to the neck, this fear response turns to exhilaration, the skin tingling all over, every nerve ending alive and on fire, the whole body a giant singing sensation.

#30NightsWild Day2 Harlaw Reservoir Martin Holland Soulchaser

I dunk my head, and my body switches over fully from fear to fun, and lets me swim and breath normally again. So much of how we experience the world depends on how our minds perceive it. What is pain? Pleasure! As my martial arts teacher used to say.

I dunk my head, and my body switches over fully from fear to fun, and lets me swim and breath normally again.

I think there is a Dutch expression that talks of wetting or splashing the chest with cold water, I think in the context of preparing yourself for something brave, like going into battle. It always resonated with me – my interpretation of it at least – because for me it’s always the chest. If I splash myself and warn my body that it’s about t get dunked, I can jump in with no fear. If I wade in like I did this morning, slowly inching myself lower into the cold, it’s agonising! I do enjoy the tease though!

This morning’s short little swim, witnessed by a few anglers on another bank, was in the Harlaw Resevoir in the Pentlands, near Barlow. It’s just outside Edinburgh, and was a 10 minute drive from Ratho where I had spent the afternoon climbing. I’d never been here before and was quite taken aback by just how beautiful it was. I’ll definitely be back here for a longer swim before the summer’s over.

#30NightsWild Day2 Harlaw Reservoir Martin Holland Soulchaser


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