Wild Swimming

Last night I had the absolute pleasure of watching Wild Swimming on BBC4 presented by anatomist, author and broadcaster Alice Roberts. It was brilliant, inspirational, thrilling – and I would recommend getting on to the iPlayer and catch it while you still have the chance.

Roberts – best known for presenting BBC2’s Coast and the Incredible Human Journey – embarks on a quest to discover what lies behind the passion for wild swimming, now becoming increasingly popular in Britain. She follows in the wake of Waterlog: a swimmer’s journey through Britain, the classic book by the late journalist and author, Roger Deakin – a key note text for any outdoor swimming connoisseur.

Her journey takes in cavernous plunge pools, languid rivers and unfathomable underground lakes, as well as a skinny dip in a moorland pool. Along the way Alice becomes aware that she is not alone on her watery journey.

According to writer Ken Worpole’s obituary of Deakin in 2006: ‘It is said that only exceptional politicians are able to make their own weather. The same is true of writers. Roger Deakin, the writer and environmentalist who sadly died on Saturday 19 August 2006, literally changed the climate of opinion about access to the countryside, its rivers and waterways, with his 1999 book, Waterlog: a swimmer’s journey through Britain. It is a unique book and it will last for a very long time in the canon of British topographical and naturalist writing.

The launch of the book was memorable. Invitations to the party suggested that guests bring swimming costumes. The event was held at the Oasis open-air swimming pool in central London, where a poolside band fronted by Jacqui Dankworth played Loudon Wainwright III’s wonderful Swimming Song, amongst other joyful and upbeat music.”

Now that summer is almost upon us, go and get yourself a copy of Deakin’s book, dust off your road map of the UK, and go and find some of the great outdoor pools and rivers that nature has given – for free!

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