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The Wild Man of Windermere


Adjective: Occurring, growing, or living in a natural state

In the town of Ambleside, nestled above the Lake District’s Windermere, there lives a wild man. Don’t get me wrong, he’s domesticated, hygienic and hardworking, but somewhere in his DNA he has refused to abandon ancestral longings. As hotel staff up and down the country carry out their pre-work routines, the Wild Man of Windermere leaps into the cold depths of the lake for a morning swim. His name is Mike Durkin, Head Chef of BEST WESTERN Ambleside Salutation Hotel.

On hearing the tales of this Wild man of Windermere, I had to see it for myself. So here at Central Office we dispatched a camera-savvy crew to observe Mr Durkin in the flesh. (And flesh was indeed the right word!)

The tales were true. Every morning, Mr Durkin swims a fair chunk of England’s largest natural lake before heading to work for a shower and a shift in the kitchen.

Considering the unending options of warm swimming pools littered up and down England, our first question for Mr Durkin was the obvious: ‘Why’.

His answer somehow captured the reflective culture of Ambleside. “I like the way it helps me think things through. I get a sense of proportion.”

Personally, I prefer the comforts of my electric blanket, but this Head Chef isn’t programmed like me. He‘s not content with the pace of the environment that surrounds him. For Mr Durkin, if he sees a bitterly cold stretch of untouched water, he sees a think tank. When I’m too busy to even give a lake a second glance, Mr Durkin has already swam it.

In fact, the wild water swimmer mentioned that he’s now looking forward to ‘The Big Chill Swim’ in February; a 450 metre effort in his beloved Windermere stretch. The temperature in the water will sit just above freezing, and there’s not a great deal in it for the winner either, but it doesn’t seem to bother Mr Durkin. Speaking about the swim, he quietly mentioned: “This event favours the portly.”

So for those of you looking to ‘process’ a few things or grasp some sense of‘proportion’ in your life, you’d do a lot worse than head to Lake Windermere. (Don’t mind the chef swimming a few widths, that’s just Mr Durkin).

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