Getting to know Sarah Guise, Founder of The Rewild Swim Club
Wild and cold water swimming has swelled in popularity over the last few years, creating communities of brave hearted folk that come together to experience the benefits and share the exhilaration and joys the water has to offer.
Studies have shown that cold water can improve circulation, boost brain power, reduce inflammation, and support the immune system.
We chatted to Open Water Coach and Founder, Sarah Guise, who has opened up her spring fed lake, Madam's Pool on the Elmore Court estate, to create the fantastic retreat and community that is The Rewild Swim Club.
Sarah, just taking a glance at The Rewild Swim Club fills us with inspiration! It’s incredible that you can just look at a stunning piece of nature and feel good - actually being there must be something else entirely. Tell us about how you first came across the spring fed lake; Madam’s Pool, and how the Rewild Swim Club was born…
Thank you. The Rewild Swim Club began in 2017 when, with a few brave friends, we decided to continue swimming beyond October, the month when water in the UK begins to cool. I can’t recall why we came to this decision - we simply loved the fun, the escape and the feeling of bravery that would last all day. Looking back, I now realise it was a way of carving out a very basic but powerful space away from the demands of life. Cold water and nature cuts through everything & provides a quiet connection.
Then came the pandemic and the pools closed and we would meet as a group of friends. It became a lifeline. It was a very special time & the bonds will always remain from that winter. So much began from that year!
The group expanded and I decided to share the lake further and see if the community would grow. It has. With the addition of a woodfired sauna it has completely changed our relationship with winter.
Rewilding is top of the list for our Brave Lifestyle toolkit - can you tell us more about the rewilding process that’s taking place over at the Elmore estate and within your own community?
At Elmore we have designated a 250 acre area of fields and woodland to rewilding. The area was previously farmed with both crops and cattle which had to winter inside. Now nature has been allowed to take hold and the soil is no longer ploughed, allowing the grassland to spread and create a habitat for wildlife. Already the birdlife has soared in numbers. We have also created wetlands which are an endangered habitat as land has been drained for agriculture over the decades. The change is remarkable and very quickly you realise the essential needs for land given over to conservation.
By the sounds of it you are and always have been a bit of a water baby! Have you always taken to swimming out in nature? How did your love of swimming begin?
I cannot remember a time when I was not able to swim. I learnt to swim in the lake which sits in the heart of my family Estate, Wyresdale Park. We spent all summer in the water throughout our childhood. We were incredibly lucky to be able to roam across the Estate and we lived outside. Water and wood smoke was my childhood.
So many people are now turning to wild swimming, be it in lakes, ponds, or the sea which we think is fantastic. What makes the Rewild Swim Club even more beneficial to both our mental and physical health is that sense of community you’ve created. Tell us more about the importance of connection and being together in nature
It is so very important. I was curious when I opened up to guests to learn if the sense of community would be present amongst swimmers who would be meeting for the first time. It’s incredible how cold water and being in a sauna, literally and metaphorically strips everything away. There is a feeling that you are sharing a special moment and within that you are vulnerable.
Stood in a swimming costume in January in frost before you get into 4 degree water is a very real experience & creates an instant bond. It is a lot of fun. I regularly find swimmers of all ages leaping off the deck naked in December having just met! Warming up afterwards with an Ancient + Brave Cacao + Collagen on the bank of the lake, you just feel so good!
For those of us who are interested in getting involved in Wild Swimming, what are your main do’s and don’ts?
If you are beginning in winter, go somewhere where there is a coach who can guide you through what to expect and how to approach the water. It’s important that you understand the impact of cold water on your body. The Outdoor Swimming Society is a great place for information.
You must be prepared. Warm layers for both before and after are essential. Once the water falls below a certain temperature, I strongly recommend neoprene gloves and boots to protect your fingers and toes! Always, always listen to your body and understand that it will change week to week depending on sleep, stress, food etc. Always bring a hot drink, I recommend your Cacao for the mind AND body warming benefits!
As you enter water, breathe, don’t chat and breathe through the cold water shock response to keep your energy circulating.
There are so many myths, but I observe guests all week and I know how much joy & bravery there is in the quickest of dips. Enjoy it.
You’re now a trained Open Water Coach and also have a whole range of beautiful offerings at the estate including some of our go-to wellness practices, sauna and yoga, for which people can attend regularly or come to a retreat. Is there such a thing as a ‘typical day’ in the life of Sarah Guise? And if so, what does it look like?
I have a very active life! I am up by 6.00 am where I shuffle down for a cup of tea and to find thirty minutes to journal my morning pages. Then it’s a whirlwind of kids to school, dogs that need walking and pet pigs that seem to constantly escape. I race back & load my beloved Defender with wood and head down to the lake to light the fire in the sauna and yurt. I meet anxious guests and watch them transform. I have to be mindful as I swim at the end of each session and the idea of emails and admin melt away in the sauna….
But then it’s back to the farm for Ancient + Brave Cacao and toast, I open my laptop & attempt to answer WhatsApp for my beloved friends. Living on a family working Estate, you never quite know what is going to greet you each day.
I have to ensure that I carve out time for myself and my physical body as I expect a lot from it within the week & I have two Amazonian children who also live outside! I also have to ensure that I don’t constantly dress in muddy work clothes, thermals and boots. I am so grateful to two friends who I swam with in those first winters who created the Wylding Wear suits. I live in them!
I love what I do & know I am very lucky.
Do you swim everyday? How often do you think people should try to swim to gain the benefits?
I swim three times a week in the winter and every day as soon as it’s warmer. As soon as I can cycle down to the lake in a costume and jumper I am so happy!
I think that if you can swim once a week your tolerance really develops to cold water shock and you gain confidence with using your breath. It’s a glorious moment when spring comes and you observe the bright green buds peacefully swimming.
What are your top daily(ish) habits that make your body and mind feel great?
I have to journal and allow my thoughts to pour out. Exercise in nature every day. Yoga every week. Eat well. Relax. I also know that I need to restore sometimes and that for me is to turn off my phone, light a fire outside and sleep under canvas. Just me.
What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
This too shall pass. Remember that.
I opened Rewild Swim Club at a very difficult time personally. I had just, amongst other things, lost my father. Looking back it was a crazy time to start a new venture! A friend said to me, do you feel like you have a choice? That is how it felt. Like I had to do it & I knew my grief would pass.
I do believe that the small acts of bravery just add up, and wild water is a way of accessing that strength.
Finally, a few quick fire questions, what’s your favourite;
Porridge with a mountain of blueberries
I have a few! Cornwall, surfing at sunset with my wonderful gang of friends and kids. Wyresdale where I grew up on the water, same gang of friends and kids, and finally, by Madam’s Pond (where I run the Rewild Swim Club)| on a dusky June evening. Just me, when everyone has gone.
Way to relax:
Water and wood smoke
Ancient + Brave Product:
Cacao + Collagen
Way to connect with others:
Water, wood smoke and friendship. Nothing beats a skinny dip.
Women who run with Wolves. We all have a wild woman in there and we have been left with very few ways to express that. Water is one.
Discover more at The Rewild Swim Club