Swanage Bay challenge may become annual festival

A new community festival is set to be added to Swanage’s events calendar if the inaugural Jurassic Swim Challenge is a success.

Around 150 swimmers from all over the UK are gathering at Prince Albert Gardens in Swanage on Saturday 15th July 2023 to take part in two or four kilometre swims across Swanage Bay – or just to join in a group guided swim around the town’s Victorian pier.

Milly Haines

Having a splashing time is good for the body and mind – and above all, it’s fun!

Weekend retreats for all abilities

The challenge is the brainchild of Rich Lloyd and business partner Mel Rayner, swim coaches who set up the Wild Swimming Company to offer weekend swimming retreats for people of all ages and abilities.

Born out of lockdown, the simple idea was an immediate success not only as people recognised the health and mind benefits of sea swimming, but also as the friendly, relaxed vibe to the breaks gained increasing numbers of fans on social media.

And if the pilot swimming challenge in Swanage Bay takes off, the team has plans to make it a bigger, annual celebration of wild swimming with live music and a festival feel for 2024.

Milly Haines

A vision of coaching and swimming in some of the most beautiful locations in Purbeck

“We both shared the same vision”

Rich Lloyd, who is also a member of the Swanage Lifeboat said:

“We started the Wild Swimming Co three years ago – I was on a swim coach course with Mel, we both had the same vision of offering bed and board, good food, coaching and swimming in some of the most beautiful places, decided to go for it together, and here we are.

“We started in quite a small way, with weekend wild swimming events but people loved the welcoming family run personal feel that we encourage and it has grown to the point where we are ready to now hold our first public event.

“We try not to make it feel corporate at all, we are just two people who love swimming and love talking about water safety – I have trained beach lifeguards and manage school residential trips for Land and Wave, so I know how important it is to spread good messages.”


Wild swimmers in training, in front of Swanage Pier

Guided swims around Swanage Pier

The Jurassic Swim Challenge will be based in Prince Albert Gardens with four kilometre swimmers setting out from Monkey Beach and Quay Beach to the south of the bay and heading out to Sheps Hollow to the north, past Banjo Jetty before returning.

A two kilometre challenge will see swimmers follow the same route as far as Ocean Bay before heading back, while families and casual swimmers will be able to take part in 500 metre or one kilometre guided swims around Swanage Pier.

There are still a few tickets left for the event, which has been capped at 150 swimmers for the pilot event, although bookings will be closed on Wednesday 12th July 2023.


Any funds made by the pilot challenge will be reinvested in wild swimming locally

Any funds may support a changing room

Rich said:

“We were only aiming to break even this year, although if we do make a profit we have talked about reinvesting funds into the local wild swimming scene, perhaps backing more safety sessions or even financially supporting a changing room for local swimmers.

“Ideally, people who come for the event will enjoy Swanage and come back to visit us again – especially to visit us for the 2024 swim which will be bigger and better as we hope to make it more of a community festival next year with music.

“We chose Swanage because it is perfect for swimming – it has a sheltered aspect, golden sands and a swimmer friendly bay, the sea is lovely and clean without a massive tidal range and there is no better events location than Prince Albert Gardens.”


No better place for a swimming festival than beautiful Swanage Bay

Investing in coastal communities

Jurassic Basecamp will be set up around the amphitheatre overlooking the sea, with an on site medic, the Wild Swimming Co merchandise and Jurassic hot tubs​.

There will also be a bar stocking local Isle of Purbeck beer and Purbeck Cider and there will also be Purbeck ice cream, local farm sausages and burgers for the barbecue and Carve Coffee from Swanage.

Rich added:

“We are looking at a really local affair promoting our local town – at the same time as reducing food miles and our carbon footprint, we are also investing in our coastal communities and spreading the word about what a beautiful place Swanage is, so everyone wins.”


A wild swimming session experience at Dancing Ledge

Further information

  • Find out more about Wild Swimming Co events or book for a place in the Jurassic Swim Challenge on its website

Watch a video about the challenge

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