Keeping you safe and well in the water | The Forge

The Forge Corwen

Wild swimming is great fun - all that cold water, the exhilaration, the famous 'buzz' afterwards. But it is not without its risks. Find out more about what we do at The Forge to keep you safe and well in the water.


The wild swimming industry is (perhaps surprisingly given its popularity) currently unregulated which means that anyone can in theory take groups into cold water without a single qualification. Scary right?

Here at The Forge, we ensure that all our wild swim guides have at least one outdoor lifeguarding qualification. The most popular is the Open Water Lifeguard (or OWL, which any Harry Potter fans will no doubt raise a smile at!). However given that a lot of the places that we go to on our Wild Swim Retreats are not in open air swimming pools or controlled environments, we favour the National Water Safety Management Programme (NWSMP) Level 3 which is part of the Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS) courses. The reason we prefer this qualification is that it is designed for people who are swimming in very different bodies of water (rivers, lakes, waterfalls) which present their own risks and challenges. For example, understanding how water flows in a river and identifying underwater obstructions is really crucial for us, given our proximity to some lovely swimming spots on the River Dee. Understanding potential contamination hazards is another big part of this course and forms a major part of all our risk assessments, given the current woeful state of many of our waterways.

As well as understanding the theory a lot of our training is done in the water and in less than perfect conditions. Our guides have been trained in white water which means that they are confident in keeping themselves and others safe in fast moving water. Some of our guides are also experienced coasteering, rafting and canoe guides so are super skilled at reading the water and in keeping people calm and relaxed.

Many of our guides, and all that are involved in our Mountain Swim Adventure, are also trained Mountain Leaders (MLs).

Sheena, owner of The Forge, and of our wild swim guides, is also a Citizen Scientist for the Welsh Dee Trust and is trained in how to sample and assess water quality in our local rivers and tributaries.

Risk Assessments and Emergency Action Procedures

We have documented Risk Assessments (RAs) for every single location that we swim at as part of our wild swim retreats. These assessments include potential hazards for swimmers and non-swimmers, for example slippy rocks or tree roots near to the bank, and also have detailed descriptions of each location and what we have done to mitigate risks. We use these risk assessments to brief our groups before EVERY swim and we are always very happy to show them to our retreat guests to help them learn to identify risks and mitigations when they are wild swimming elsewhere. Our risk assessments are updated at least annually, however we check ALL our swim spots in the week before every retreat and make dynamic changes to our assessments based on the quality and level of the water, the weather, the temperature, and any changes to the swimming environment (for example, cattle in the field next to the river).

Our Emergency Action Procedures (EAPs) come everywhere with us. On here you will find details of the exact location of the swim spot (using postcode, grid references and What Three Words), plus step by step process steps of what to do should there be an accident. These EAPs are laminated and brought to bankside for every swim so anyone in the group can access and follow the instructions, should they need to.

Safety Equipment

All our guides carry several pieces of kit with them designed to keep everyone safe in the water. All our wild swimmers are offered additional flotation devices in the form of tow floats or 'noodles'. Our guides also carry throw lines (long pieces of rope with a bag on the end that people can grab onto and be brought back to shore), floating rope, buoyancy aids, and blunt ended knives (in case we need to cut back any overhanging branches for example). Typically our guides will wear wetsuits all year round so they do not have to think about their own body temperature and can focus fully on their group in the water.

First Aid and Additional Kit

As well as safety kit, we always carry a fully stocked First Aid Kit which has a few additional items specifically for wild swimming, which includes lots of emergency sugar, bandages, extra layers of clothing, and small hot water bottles. All our guides are fully trained in outdoor first aid which is renewed at least every three years.

Preparation and Acclimatisation

Everyone who signs up to join one of our wild swimming retreats is sent a pack of information a month beforehand which includes advice about how to acclimatise to cold water. This could be starting to have cold baths or showers, or gradually increasing the time they spend in their current wild swimming location. We provide a full kit list of what everyone should bring and always have extra kit, such as neoprene swim socks and woolly hats, in case people forget.

Understanding your health

As part of the preparation before every retreat we request some medical information so we are fully prepared in the case of emergency and also capture anything we need to be aware of (e.g., reminding asthma sufferers to take their inhalers to every swim). This also gives us the opportunity to ask anyone with a medical condition, such as those with pacemakers fitted, migraine sufferers, people taking statins, to check first with their GP to make sure they are deemed fit enough to join the retreat and spend time in cold water.


Finally, all our wild swim guides hold their own personal insurance which typically allows them to take up to ten people out in a group. Regardless of what is stipulated in their insurance, we always take more than one guide for groups over ten people to make sure everyone feels safe and supported in the water, regardless of their ability and confidence.

Posted: 25.06.24 | Activities | Health and Wellbeing

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