Dedham Mill 2 Mill Slow Swim and Picnic

Flatford Mill CO7 6UL
11th August 2024
2.2km (or 1.2km) Social River Swim and Picnic
Entry £20.00 (under 16s £15.00)
The picnic’s FREE (bring your own picnic), bring cake to share!

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The Dedham Mill 2 Mill Swim and Picnic isn’t a race. It’s a social swim and a picnic in the heart of idyllic Constable Country from Dedham Mill to Flatford Mill. The Mill 2 Mill is part of the Slow Swimming campaign, aimed at encouraging swimmers to take their time and enjoy the opportunity to be out fully immersed in nature. There are no timing chips or results sheets. Everyone who takes part is a winner equally.
We are very keen to get children used to, and enjoying, swimming outdoors. This will improve their safety in and around water and should encourage them to be lifelong outdoor swimmers. There isn’t an age restriction as such, but obviously we would be depending on your adequate supervision of anyone under 16. I would very much recommend that they wear a wettie, as children lose heat quicker than adults when in water, and unless they are very good swimmers a form of buoyancy aid.
To give everyone an enjoyable swim the event is split into waves. Each wave will go off at  intervals from 10:30am.

Wave 1: Seriously Need More Cake (Known as Serious), start at 10.30am, 2.2km swim. Choose this wave if you would like to actually race.
Wave 2: Relaxed ’cause we know where the cake is hidden (Known as Relaxed), 2.2km swim. Steady pace – no rush.
Wave 3
: Enjoying the Journey (Known as Enjoying it), 2.2km swim. Sculling along, maybe with a bit of paddling, smiling and chatting.
Wave 4
: Pooh Sticks. Half the distance, 1.2km swim. But still finishing at the picnic field.
Wave 5: Pooh Sticks. 1.2km. Basically it’s for people who want to really enjoy the scenery and float along using floaty things (nothing bigger than a lilo please) and stick out the occasional hand or foot to paddle. It could be as little as arm bands or a rubber ring.
Rather than specific start times for each wave, as a way of spacing swimmers out, we will be having wave intervals where you are encouraged to start within a time span. This will provide a safe and comfortable experience.

The Mill 2 Mill Swim started in 2013 with a bunch of friends getting together and just deciding to do it. So out came the wetties (it was September) and sandwiches were made, bottles of ginger beer were packed and it happened. The official ‘start list’ only had six starters and luckily an equal number of finishers.

We opened up participation in 2014 to friends of friends, and to friends of friends of friends, and before we knew it 50 people had entered. Even through Britain was hit by the tail of hurricane Bertha that weekend, most turned up and had a fab time. After all how much wetter could you get?
There was a spectacular display of lightening and massive showers most of the swim, but the afternoon brightened up as the last swimmers were coming in and the NT tea shop by the finishing bridge at Flatford Mill did a roaring trade in tea and cake.

Word of the picnic at the end of Dedham Vale had started to spread, with mentions in outdoor magazines websites, so when the entry opened in November with 150 places, it fully booked in 4 weeks.
With greater numbers and lots of spectators we started from the mill pond at Dedham, rather than the car park and finished in the picnic field rather than swimming under the bridge.
The weather was great, starting off very sunny and ending with fluffy clouds. Very much a John Constable painting.

Loads of interest right from the moment the entry opened. In the end we had 220 swimmers sign in.
The weather was ideal, just as we had ordered, with white fluffy clouds and sunshine. The river was a bit chilly and a little lower than we are used, but a large number of the swimmers braved the temperature and swam in cossies, while otheres enjoyed the luxery of wetties.

The swim is along the idyllic Dedham Vale in the very heart of Constable Country, with a picnic by the river at Flatford Mill.

Order your Dedham Slow Swim and Picnic robe or towel patch now and have it ready for you at the picnic after the swim. A unique souvenir and profits go towards our good causes. Cost £6.00.

Although we try to make this event as professional as possible it is run by swimmers for swimmers. Apart from a few experts (lifeguards, first aid etc) everyone is volunteering their time to help out. If you can spare half an hour before the swim to help set up the equipment please just turn up from 8.15am and ask Cathie for a job.

 If you are planning on camping over the weekend and using the trip to explore other attractions in Constable Country here are some suggestions of where to stay:

Rushbanks Farm

Bloomfields Farm, Ardleigh

For more immediate information and the chance to talk to other swimmers to arrange lifts, car sharing etc. join the Mill2Mill Facebook group here:


Please try to car share to the registration point. If you want to arrange to car share click through to the event Facebook page here

Travelling from London by train.
Flatford Mill is a bit rural to get to on a Sunday, but it is possible. The most logical way would be to catch a train from Liverpool Street to Manningtree.

Then there is a walk of just over 2 miles along the river (taxis might be a bit sparse at that time) which should get you to the registration at about 10:10am…/data=!4m15!4m14!1m5!1m1!1s0x47d909….

We have arranged with The National Trust to have our very own car park for the event at Flatford Mill. It is marked on the attached map and will cost just £5 for the entire day (or free to NT members).

If you are using a SatNav based on Goole Maps you can click here to find the car park,1.0210582,17.09z  It’s marked as ‘Mill 2 Mill Swim car park. The post code CO7 6UL will get you very close as well.

Once parked carry your picnic stuff and after-swim changing stuff down to the hill and you will see the small white registration marquee in the field at the bottom of the hill.

Registration starts at 9.30am on tables relating to your surname. Please make sure you register at this point. Do not go straight to the start as we will not know you are in the river (Health and Safety).

Once you have registered you will be given a coloured wrist band to wear during the event. Please put this on and have it on during the swim.

Leave your picnic supplies and the majority of your kit in your car or here in the corral by the registration gazebo. Just take with you what you will need to walk to the start.

Walking to the start

The event is a one way swim, so you drop off most of your kit at the picnic area, then only take the absolute minimum with you to walk 2.3km to the start at Dedham. I would suggest this would be a pair of trainers and a T Shirt in a small shoe bag or small carrier bag. This will take you between 30 and 45 minutes. Don’t forget to factor this in to your arrival plans.

There will be a short reminder briefing immediately before each wave and then you are free to warm up in the water before you start. The access to the river is gently sloping and very easy at this point is between waist and shoulder deep.

Wave 1: Seriously Need More Cake (Known as Serious) (2.2km swim), start at 10.15am.

Wave 2: Relaxed ’cause we know where the cake is hidden (Known as Relaxed) (2.2km swim).
Wave 3: Enjoying the Journey (Known as Enjoying it) (2.2km swim).

Wave 4: Pooh Sticks. Swim half the distance (1.2km), but still finishing at the picnic field

Wave 5: Pooh Sticks. Float and paddle half the full swim distance (1.2km) with floaty things; lilos, unicorns and swans are popular.

If you are late for your wave – don’t panic, join in the next one.

The swim has a public footpath and easy exit points.

If you do get out, please make your way by the footpath to the finish and check out or we’ll keep looking for where you have washed up to.

Whilst swimming keep an eye on your fellow swimmers, this is a casual, social event – not a race. If anyone looks in trouble, please be the first person to offer help. Better to offer where it’s not required than leave someone in trouble.

Please don’t forget at this point to go back to the registration marquee in the picnic field and sign out of the river. There will be hand washing facilities at the picnic field, but no showers.


In all the excitement of the swim don’t forget to bring your picnic. Don’t take it with you along the walk to the start, but leave it in or car or the corral by the registration desk at the picnic field, along with your change of clothing and towels, Dry-Robes etc.

Cake sharing table

The Mill 2 Mill Swim and Picnic is a very social affair and the swopping and sharing of cake and goodies is very much encouraged. As the event has got larger each year we have decided to help this along by providing a cake (and goodies) sharing table.

If you would like to bake a bit extra and share it around, or sample the expertise of your fellow swimmers and picnickers please make use of the sharing table at the small marquee.

Cathie and I will get it started with some off the shelf cake but feel free to be enthusiastic with your donations and don’t be shy in digging in to the goodies there. If you are bringing cake to share please cut it into portion sizes.

Remember that the event is to promote the conservation of the river and the surrounding Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, so if possible bring your picnic in re-usable containers and re-usable drinks bottles. But if you do have any rubbish, please take it home with you for recycling, or put it in the bins provided.

If you see that someone else has left rubbish please clear that as well. We have promised the landowner, that we will leave no sign of the picnic and if possible leave the area cleaner than we found it.

Some FAQs:

One of the many attractions of swimming outdoors is that you are totally immersed in nature, but as the Slow Swims are often the first opportunity that many people have had to give it a try you might be surprised by a few things.

There are weeds in the river, you won’t get tangled in them and they won’t ‘drag you down’ whatever your non-swimming friends say. If the idea of something touching you whilst you swim is too freaky then try a wettie or most commonly leggings and a t-shirt or surfers rashie.

The river bottom can be stony, muddy, have twigs or sharp flints. A few people will swim with bare feet, and if you do then be careful as cuts can become infected in river water, but most people will use swim socks, wetsuit boots or more commonly new thin swimming shoes like these

Great for walking to and from the swim as well (we have no connection to any swim shoe company)

Don’t drink the water. Although the River Stour, on a bacteriological basis, is in most cases cleaner than a swimming pool, it’s not wise to drink any more of the water than is necessary. There are particulates from mud and plant-life that can sometimes upset your stomach for a day or two; most people are fine but no point taking unnecessary risks. Needless to say – wash your hands and face before picnicking.

What to wear

No you don’t have to wear a wettie. We will publish the water temperature 24 hours before the swim on the swim Facebook page and you can make your own choice:

Tow floats are allowed but aren’t compulsory. They are great to use when you are outdoor swimming in small groups as they allow other river users to see you and can be great in an emergency for you or other swimmers.

Under 16s are welcome but must be accompanied by a responsible adult. It is your responsibility to ensure their safety and their ability to complete the event.

Spectators are very welcome, they can walk along the river on public footpaths all the way from Dedham Mill to Flatford, with two styles and two footbridges to cross over.

Weil’s disease

Although Weil’s disease is very rare in the UK, with only one or cases per year it’s worth being aware. Cover any open wound with a waterproof plaster. Wash your hands and face after swimming and before eating. If you get flu or jaundice-like symptoms three to fourteen days after swimming, ask your doctor for a Leptospirosis test. It is simply treated with antibiotics.

After Drop

Outdoor river and lake temperatures tend to be lower than swimming pools, which for many is an attraction, but Slow Swimmers generate less heat than others so be wary of getting cold whilst swimming or what’s called ‘after-drop’. As you get out and stop creating heat you can cool down very quickly and start shaking. This isn’t serious but can worry the uninitiated. It’s not hypothermia and is best helped by layers of clothing, hot drinks and repairing to a warm environment. If you feel this coming on speak to one of the Lifeguards or any of the Land Crew and we’ll sort you out.

For more information about other Slow Swimming events join the Slow Swimming Facebook group or the Slow Swimming website