T he picture (right) was taken one cool October Saturday morning at Race Hub
in Six Hills - just ten minutes’ drive from Barrow and used by British Triathlon
athletes. The sky is grey and the water looks cold. It is – nine degrees. The
swimmer’s face and hands are pink; they are burning, as he has an ‘ice-tan’ from
the cold water. He looks solitary but earlier he wasn’t at all as there were many others
lapping the buoys after the 10.00 am start time.
This swimmer’s alone as he’s stayed in longer than most having completed 13 laps. Many do between four and eight but 13 is a lot! Not to this man though as he’s Justin Palfrey who swam the channel in 1989 and nowadays coaches swimming. But you don’t need to be very good as it’s open to all levels of swimmer and you just swim the number of laps you feel up to. In the summer when I swam here I usually did one and sometimes two. Each lap is 300 metres. The lake is in pleasant countryside and has become much more popular as a result of Covid 19 closing the indoor pools for so many months. If you didn’t swim in the Soar, or here, you just couldn’t swim locally.
The great advantage of this lake over the river is that it’s cleaner and safer. There are fish in the lake, you see them jumping up in the summer but are unaware of them otherwise. You do see the moorhens, ducks and geese, and swimming among them is great. At night, when the club is closed, the geese would like to take over the grassy verges of the Race Hub Club site but are kept away by fencing. Geese are beautiful but their poo isn’t! They have plenty of places to roost on the other side of the lake. It’s a big lake – room for all.
The largeness of the lake isn’t a problem for swimmers as someone is always keeping watch. One of these people is Lee Barber. If you get into trouble all you have to do is raise your hand and someone will jump into the rescue boat and you’ll be out of the water in a flash. It doesn’t often happen, as most swimmers are fit and confident, it’s just that an unexpected cramp can appear at any time.
Open-water swimming has been in the press recently as possibly helping to ward off Alzheimer’s. However, even if it doesn’t, it has a lot going for it. Lee gave me a list: it boosts your immune system, releases endorphins, improves circulation, increases your libido, reduces stress and burns up calories. So, what’s stopping you from joining up? At this time of the year most swimmers wear wetsuits but Katy Young is one who chooses not to.
One person who has joined up and loves open-water swimming is Nicky Tipping from Long Clawson. She only started swimming at this site this June, fell in love with it, and now swims every week. She delights in how well it makes her feel and is planning to embark on the Race Hub Chilly Challenges - 20 short swims which run from October to March. Like me Nicky is a breastroke swimmer and enjoys looking around her as she swims. We agreed that the swimmers doing fast crawl saw little as they completed their laps. Taking it more slowly means you are aware of swimming through the reflections of sunlight and getting closer to the wild fowl. When I spoke to Nicky she was well wrapped up after her swim. She emphasised the importance of doing so within ten minutes of leaving the water. If you don’t, she told me, you might suffer an ‘after-drop’ and start shivering uncontrollably.
As well as wearing lots of layers you can warm up with hot chocolate. There’s a little open-air café that sells hot drinks and snacks such as protein bars and fruity shortbread as you get so hungry swimming. All in all it’s a very good, friendly place.
So, if you fancy a lake swim, learn more. Go to their facebook page: facebook.com/ racehub.uk or drive over to see them. The address is Six Hills Lane, Six Hills, Melton Mowbray LE14 3PR. The club shares the same entrance as Six Hills Golf Club. Check the site is open, and that someone is there, by emailing email@example.com as times vary.