Wild swimming in winter anybody? Perhaps not..
However, it could be something to consider in the summer holidays when the weather warms up a bit! If you’re staying with us this year, why not give it a visit.
Holy Well at St Helens
Near to Brandon, Suffolk, situated a little north of the tiny village of Santon Downham on the banks of the Little Ouse, is a popular spot for swimming in the wild in the area.
The Little Ouse is a pretty river marking the boundary between Suffolk and Norfolk. It offers wild swimming surrounded by a beautiful forest, a much more intimate experience than swimming through open land.
You can get in by the footbridge at St Helen’s picnic site in Santon Downham – an area that can get quite busy on hot days and school holidays. Once you swim away from the picnic area however, the river is extraordinarily tranquil; you can swim upstream and allow the river to carry you back down, or arrange for someone to pick you up and swim the 6km gently downstream to Brandon, spotting kingfishers, swans and plenty of fish on the way.
How to get there
- Go to St Helens picnic site at Santon Downham.
- Go to very end of road by the little church.
- Follow the path bearing left ( away from church and house) under the railway.
- Turn right after you cross under the train line and follow the path going past the railway cottages. The path will eventually dip and then rise again after about 3/4 of a mile. As you reach the crest of the incline you will see a point of information board to your right.
- Standing facing the board go forwards about 20 ft and a small path to your left will take you down a steep bank to the well.
More about St Helen’s Church and Well
St Helen’s Well (Tanner’s Well) is a natural spring in the amphitheatre setting of an old chalk and flint pit. It is sited just east of the hamlet of Santon in the Little Ouse valley. Water rises here directly from the Chalk bedrock. The Mediaeval site of St Helen’s Church is an interesting historical feature close by, marked by hummocky ground west of the quarry
The historic site of St Helen’s Well itself is gone, destroyed by the chalk pit, but it would have centred on a valley-side spring. The same water bubbles up here today as it did in Mediaeval times, where the slope of the valley side intercepts the local water table in the bedrock.
Thanks to the following sites for some of the information in this post – they’re a great resource if you’d like further details, or to find other activities you can do in Suffolk and the surrounding areas.
Please remember that wild swimming should only be undertaken by strong swimmers, and is an activity you should always prepare properly for. Before you set out make sure you are aware of weather conditions, water levels, exit and entry points, and anything else that might affect your safety. Any wild swimming you do is always at your own risk.