Wild Swimming in the Duddon Valley

It has been a summer of swimming, as I mentioned in this post a few weeks ago. Perhaps inspired to put pen to paper, or finger to keyboard, regular contributor and friend of Under a Grey Sky Chris Hughes sent us this dispatch from a spot of swimming of his own…


This pool might look inviting to some…


…and look up river. It gets better…


…and better.

I’m cheating a bit as the last two photographs were taken on a bright sunny day a few years ago. This year the day we visited the wonderful place that is Birks Bridge in the Duddon Valley in the English Lake District was overcast and the water was high after the wet summer. The current was strong and the waterfalls above the bridge were miniature cascades. Over thousands of years this flow has created some superb rock architecture.

Chris 4a Chris 4b

And a great little place to swim. Yes there are a few submerged boulders to negotiate but they’re mossy and smooth but the section up to, under and after the bridge is a deep gorge and gives a few metres of clear water and a unique atmosphere for swimming. We couldn’t pass beyond the bridge in the strong current on the day but it was fun trying and better still drifting back effortlessly in the strong flow.

I first swam here in 1968, it took a long time to get back into the water although I have visited many times as it is one of my favourite places in the Lake District. The Duddon Valley is a special places, it has no lake, very few crags and no village. It does have a beautifully sited primary school, a tiny Post Office and a great pub with a fabulous slate floor in the main bar. Best of all it has the magnificent scenery a wonderful river and a sense of quietness and calm. A drive up the valley on my motor bike in the late sixties was so good I turned round and did it all over again. It was just as good the second time. Drive to the head of the valley and you find yourself with three choices to leave, hard Knott Pass and Wrynose Pass, the steepest roads in the Lakes or turn round and go back the way you came. None are disappointing, you might say all are great but that rather depends on liking driving steep winding single track roads. If you do go back take the road left just after the pub and go direct to Broughton, another steep pull but quite short and another quiet and beautiful little valley.

You are probably getting the idea that I like this place by now and you would be right. Perhaps I shouldn’t be telling you about it, but then again it’s well worth sharing with people who find these places beautiful. You don’t have to swim at Birks bridge, but I think you should.

Chris 5a Chris 5b

Words and Pictures: Chris Hughes

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