BLOG: find your feel good

Wild swimming goes hand in hand with health and wellbeing.  So when The Big Retreat team knocked on our (insta) door to ask if we’d guide wild swimming at their feel good festival, it was a big YES from us. We both used to live in Pembrokeshire and have a massive soft spot for that part of Wales, so we love any excuse to head down.

As we squashed our van full of everything we deemed a camping essential, we started to wonder how this would go, whether people would handle the cold water and whether we forgot our all important dry robes to help us stay warm between swims (we didn’t, phew!)

We pitched up and found our wild swimming meeting point in the feel good fields.  A tipi overlooking the beautiful Cleddau estuary full of smiling warm hearted strangers all there to find their feel good and/or to offer someone else their chance to feel good with their skill…massage, gong baths, hypnosis…we almost felt a little out of place among these gifted group with nothing more than our love of swimming on offer (and some crazy unicorn leggings picked out by our SUP friend!). 

We soon felt the vibe of the festival. Small scale, laid back and stress free. You even get a lift with your tent! You pay your ticket price and then just chill out and enjoy the endless things on offer for free (minus the odd massage cost maybe), yoga, bushcrafts, walks, bands, inspirational talks, cookery demos, kids disco…it’s all easily accessible and more often than not in the sunshine. We lucked out with the weather and think we had one swim all weekend in the rain! 

What became evident as people turned up with their towels in hand to try wild swimming with tales of what they had done that morning, is that there really is something for everyone.  If you’re not into yoga, there are HIT sessions, if you’re not into gong baths, there are laughter workshops, if you’re not into early nights, there is gin and bands.  Literally couldn’t be more squeezed into a special few days! 

And the best bit is we’re now part of it.  

The swimming was based in the Cleddau at what locals called the big wreck. We’d group together in the tipi and walk together down for a little more chat about acclimatisation and safety, a wild swim and then back to the tipi for a shot of hot chocolate.  It was obvious on these strolls down to the water that we were more often than not guiding complete beginners, people who hadn’t swam in the sea since they were kids, people scared of seaweed, cautious of being out of their depth or if you’re like four year old Winston who came twice, absolutely fearless! We took hundreds of people swimming over the weekend, all with their own reason for signing up to our sessions, their own stories and their own ailments, and many swam more than once.  What united us all is that everyone left beaming with wide smiles promising themselves that our swim was the first of many for them this year!   

If our presence helped everyone enjoy the thrill of cold water and if have converted just a handful of those festival goers into wild swimmers, then we are stoked. 

Big thank you to Richi who supported us on his SUP, to Dwyryd Ceramics who made our gorgeous hot chocolate mugs, to the Big Retreat team and the feel good tipi crew, plus all our amazing swimmers who came along with just the right attitude to make them all a memorable swim. 

So all that’s left to say is see you next year!  

The Big Retreat Festival is based in Lawrenny in Pembrokeshire and is next taking place on 22-25 May 2020. The sooner you buy your ticket, the cheaper it is.  Check out







Meg Pugh