A wetsuit and swimming cap is fitting dress code for the Royal Victoria Dock. The surrounding area, Silvertown, gets its name from Samuel Winkworth Silver — rubber magnate and owner of a factory which churned out waterproof clothing here in 1852 and kept churning for over a century. Our neoprene garb isn't some kind of kinky salute to Silver though; we're here to swim in the docks — something that's only been officially allowed since May.
Our front crawl is frankly abominable but fortunately Rick Kiddle — winner of the 1989 British Triathlon Championships, and the man who made this swimming experience possible — is here to help us out. As well as making his dream of dunking in the docks happen, Kiddle is also using the experience to pioneer a wristband that logs how far you've swum each session, storing the information on an online database (please don't ask for our debut stats). Though he lives in Hertfordshire, Kiddle is clearly at home in this part of the Docklands, and his office is a small boat bobbing on the water.
What a place this must be to wake up to; as we're thrashing about, trying not to swallow gobfuls of saline dock juice, we are once in a while mindful of our surroundings, made all the more compelling by the day's crisp skies. Since Silver's era the docks have turned from bubbling industrial cauldron to placid lake, albeit one frequented by life. The cable car trundles overhead in an infinite loop; City Airport planes swoop above; ExCeL's weapons show is heralded by a hulking great warship. Industry is still all around.
And there are still vestiges of the past, not least the ranks of cranes that majestically salute at the water's edge.
There has already been great interest in swimming in the Victoria Dock, even if this morning the only participant we meet is a financial director taking a bracing lap or two before dashing off to Canary Wharf. The range of experiences — everything from beginner's classes to challenging circuits for triathletes which go way out to the Connaught Bridge, plus an imminent night swim — means that Rick's venture will have broad appeal, and hopefully do far more than just stay afloat.
And anyway, who wouldn't want to take a genuine dip into London's past.
For more information on swimming in the Victoria Dock visit the website.
Read other Swimming Shorts: