Event 42 – Glow Swim

Adi swimming at Vobster Quay in the summer

As Autumn approaches the events are changing…fading light means evening events are now in the dark!  This event was a first for me – a night swim.

The swim took place at Vobster Quay near Radstock – I had been there once before in the summer with Adi, who would also be doing the night swim.  We loved it, although I think we were lucky with our experience on that particular day as we had the lake to ourselves – apparently it gets quite busy.  It’s quite a drive from where we live, just over an hour.  We spent the whole drive saying “it’s too far” “we won’t go again” – then we swam in the lake and decided the drive was totally worth it and when could we come back 🙂

Adi – Glow stick ready

I had got chatting to another swimmer who arrived as we were finishing and he said if we liked it so much we should come back for the night swim – book early as it sells out fast, only 150 spaces.   A few days later I saw the entries available on the website and we were in.

Vobstay Quay is mainly a diving centre, but with an area available for open water swimmers.  This is what the website says about the lake:

With 36-acres of fresh water diving in depths ranging from 6m to 36m, divers of all levels will find the heady mix of exciting underwater attractions and a full range of diving support services hard to resist.

Beneath the lake waters you’ll find a fabulous array of attractions just waiting to be discovered. Divers can explore the wreck of a large commercial aircraft, a 42ft motorcruiser, two metal wheelhouses, our famous Crushing Works – a towering structure the size of a 2-storey house – and even a spooky concrete-lined tunnel that’s not for the faint hearted!

I should point out that I knew none of this on the night of the swim – and I think I’m pleased – 36 METRES DEEP!!! SPOOKY TUNNEL!!!


Fortunately it was a fairly warm evening although cloud cover stopped us seeing the full moon properly – which was a shame… I had looked up lots of information to tell you about the Harvest Moon…another time.

There are two small car parks at the lake, one right by the lake and one up a steep hill a few hundred metres away.  Due to me getting everywhere super early we pinched a spot in the bottom car park.  This meant we could leave all our stuff in the car and go back for food, water, change of clothes as often as we liked.   It all felt very relaxed.

At registration we were given a swim hat, a glow stick and a travel mug (not sure why a travel mug, but it was very nice).  We also had a number marked on our hand and our cap  so we could be identified easily as we got in and out of the water.


Like the swim event at Eton the it was a great atmosphere.  Lots of different types of swimmers from Ironman triathletes – I saw a lot of IM T-shirts, to non wetsuit swimmers.  I even saw a lady in a wheelchair getting ready for her swim.  I did wonder for a moment if they were going to wheel her up to the edge and just tip her in.  Hopefully she used the ramp lol!

At 7.30 as the light was fading we had our safety briefing – everyone had to check that the person next to them had a working glow stick (unlike the glow run last week where most of them didn’t work) – this would be the only means of being seen.  I could see the safety kayaks getting ready in the  water, they had a little red glow sticks, we had green and yellow ones.  There were also a couple of divers under the water with torches.  It was all very exciting.

Safety kayakers

At 7.45 we entered the water – our numbers shouted out and written down as we did so – each swimmer would be checked back out of the water too.  The water on the ramp was shallow and warm, nice ….and then you jump into the deep dark water and OOOHHHH!! a little bit colder (much colder).   Everyone gasped as they jumped in and then laughed.  There was lots of nervous excitement, it really was an unusual thing to be doing.

The event was started with a red firework set off over the lake.  Very cool.  We had been told not to race.  If we were fast then go near the front and slower swimmers near the back.  It was an experience, racing would be dangerous.  Everyone stuck to this and before long there was a long line of glow sticks making their way round the lake.

Helping a swimmer out of the water

We were allowed to swim any distance we liked from one to four laps.  Adi and I had decided to stick to two laps as we didn’t know how we would feel.  As it happened I think we both would have liked one more lap but as we didn’t swim together we both got out when we said, not wanting to worry the other one.

But back to the swim…. I loved it!!  Really loved it.  I just spent the whole swim thinking how lucky I was to be doing it.  What an experience.  It really was very dark, but the little glow sticks around were comforting and I did get a glimpse a hazy Harvest Moon 🙂   The large buoys on the lake were lit from below so we could see where we were going and apart from swimming into a smaller buoy at one point it was very straightforward.  I did have one little shock as a non wetsuit swimmer came near me – it did just look like a body floating in the lake!

Each time I rounded a big buoy I could see the snaking line of glow stick, it was very special.  I saw one swimmer stop and asked if he was ok?  “yes, I’m just taking it all in” he said. I knew what he meant.  Towards the end of the last lap although feeling really strong I was starting to feel little cold so it was probably good that I was getting out.   I headed over to the ramp and my number was shouted out as I exited.  I was a bit wobbly but so happy.

Finished and time to go home

Adi had finished before me and was back at the car out of her wetsuit and wrapped in her toweling robe.  We had had decided not to shower with the masses (there are good facilities there) but to get dressed and get home.  It was getting quite late and we had a long drive.

We both loved it.  Event 42 done….only eight more.




2 thoughts on “Event 42 – Glow Swim”

  1. How exciting……and frightening! Sounds like you and Adi had a great time. How wonderful to be able to share these experiences with your sister!


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