BLOG: swimming the Mawddach estuary

The Mawddach appeared even more foreboding than usual. The sea was slate grey and the heavy clouds loomed overhead; winding motionless down the 10km stretch and disappearing around the horizon to Penmaenpool. 

Three of us gathered on the shore in Barmouth harbour; zipping up wetsuits, clipping on tow floats and nervously chatting about the route ahead. The Mawddach can be an unforgiving place. The route had been meticulously planned; tides, winds (we went on an incoming spring tide) and safety support. We had organised a friend to assist us in a small rowing boat in the event of an emergency and the obligatory occasional drink stop.

We cautiously waded through the bladder wrack and barnacles. The smell of the harbour hung in the air, sailing boats knocked against the buoys and bobbed in the waves. The only other sound were the gulls calling overhead. 

We swam out towards the menacing arches of Barmouth bridge, the longest timber viaduct in Wales. We headed towards the swing bridge (no longer operational). The sea was warmer than expected and we broke into front crawl, keen not to be left behind by each other. As we reached the arch we were assisted by a fast flowing incoming tide. When we stopped to sight  the power of the current could be seen whooshing past the moorings.

The sea opened up into the wide and sandy estuary with mountains either side. We glided past the iconic Clock House, following the pre planned swim path. This is where we relaxed and started to really enjoy the swim and get in to our rhythm. We did not realise just how fast we were going until we stopped and watched the hills rolling by. At one point an anchor buoy held fast by its chains approached with the channel engulfing it. As we neared I thought it may have been a fast approaching predator (in 2014 a Mako shark was washed up on Barmouth beach) much to the amusement of the others.

As we approached the corner the channel narrowed and the banks encroached upon us. The channel sped up and we powered through with front crawl to cross and reach the banks of Penmaenpool. 

We dragged ourselves out of the water with smug satisfaction. Luckily for us The George the third pub lies on the banks of the Mawddach estuary. Although we were too early for a pint we warmed ourselves up with coffee and biscuits. The very friendly staff, bemused by our early morning efforts even brought us out some leftover croissants and some homemade shortbread. What a lovely warm welcome after a beautiful 10km swim.

Kit List

Alpkit Lotic swimming wetsuit

Alpkit Silver tip swimming wetsuit

Aquasphere goggles

Swim Secure Tow Float

The Mawddach estuary is also home to The Outdoor Swimming Society Hurly Burly swim.

Meg Pugh