This year I became addicted to swimming – diving, wading and leaping in wherever and whenever the opportunity presented itself. On the sound advice of Loudon Wainwright III, I held my breath and kicked my feet through reservoirs, waterfall fed pools, rivers, seas, oceans, lakes, lidos and of course, the odd swimming pool.
I’ve sluiced my way through gentle tides in the North Atlantic,
been battered by fiercer ones in the Pacific,
delved into the electric blue of the South Pacific,
sunk into the muddy waters of Fiji’s rainforest pools,
dodged oil droplets in the Tasman sea and plastic bags in the South China sea,
floated lazily over reef fish in the Andaman sea,
dipped my toe into the Russian Neva (not as bravely as this winter river swimmer),
and retreated hastily from the polluted shores of the English channel.
It was only after returning home and looking back at these watery encounters that I really started to feel the beckon of waters beyond my local lido at Tooting Bec (glorious though that is in its own right). The seas may have a greyish tinge most of the year and the rivers be brown and murky but it’s only through these swims that I’ve really started to feel connected with the natural environment around me. My UK endeavors have so far included foolishly braving the icy waters of an old quarry in the Malvern Hills (without a wetsuit), swimming amongst the dragonflies and the goldfish of Silent Pool in Surrey, dodging the narrowboats in the River Wey near Guildford, refreshing myself in the coastal waters off the Isle of Wight during a rainstorm, battling the surf at Kynance Cove in Cornwall and floating serenely under Durdle Door on the Jurassic coast on a rare hot summer’s day…
A great deal has been said about the so called rediscovery of ‘wild’ swimming in the last few years (by Daniel Start & co.) and Roger Deakin’s beautifully described journey through Britain’s waterways has been reprinted, re-covered and is now proudly displayed in the windows of many a UK bookshop. It could be the recession and the increasing need to escape office claustrophobia but I think our love of water runs deeper than that. It’s something primal, buried deep within us, beneath our grime-filmed city skins and it has the capacity to make even the most dead of us come to life. The piercing cold, the tingling heat rush, the heightened sensitivity of goose-pimpled skin, where every little hair on your arm stands up to the tiniest breeze. This is one habit I think I’ll be sticking to…
Interested in taking a dip:
Daniel Starts’s Wild Swimming, Wild Swimming Coast and Wild Swimming France (Punk Publishing) will see you on your way.
While Roger Deakin’s beautiful Waterlog will fire the imagination…