Have been thoroughly immersed in reading Waterlog by Roger Deakin for the last few weeks. A book dedicated to the many joys to be had by wild swimming. Roger set out to swim his way through the British Isles, venturing into moats, rivers, lidos and sea with a reckless abandon which you want to stand up and applaud. He argues with officious river ‘owners’ and challenges the Environment Agencies insistence that our rivers are nowadays dangerous, polluted waterways likely to drag you into there depths or poison you with all manner of chemicals and mysterious sounding diseases.
Feeling keen to follow Roger’s example I poured over the map for village names which sounded like they might have once been the place for some waterbourne fun, but can find nothing so exciting as the fabulous Water-Cum-Jolly which Roger discovered near the Peak District. Undeterred I turn to the internet and swiftly find some wonderful maps detailing all the outdoor swimming locations in my area. Some are well known to me but others show swims in rivers and gravel pits. I am tempted but then I remember that wild swimming and I have not exactly worked that well in the past.
Following a hot day last summer surveying out on the marshes, I had flopped down beside a wide weedy pool where rudd and sticklebacks swam lazily in the black depths, it was too inviting. I stripped off and sunk to my waist, balancing on a shelf. I knew all the reasons not to jump in, the danger, the isolation, the mobile phone left on the bank but what is a life in which you never dare to take a risk. I belly flopped in, scaring the fishes, thrashing around on top of the Canadian pondweed, giving myself a scare, whaling back to the bank and clinging breathless to the grass before hauling myself out with life protecting super strength.
At this moment wild swimming did not seem the blissful, ‘one with nature’ tranquil experience that Roger Deakin would have me believe but at least I had tried.
I lay on the bank, duckweed sticking to places it never wanted to be, the sun warming my body revealing its newly earthy watery fragrance. A naughty 21st century forbidden delight of being naked outdoors. A bi-plane buzzed overhead, I vaguely hoped it was not Google Earth photographing the land. Would my white form be forever immortalised on world maps? Puzzling generations of viewers over what it might be.
A cormorant swam underwater, easily, nimbly, hunting for fish, it surfaced beneath me, nothing I could do to prevent it getting the fright of it’s life, it dived again and I watched the silver sheen of air washing over it’s feathers.
Maybe I should learn my lesson, leave the pools and rivers to the fish and the cormorants and to those more naturally adapted to there delights. At this time of year, when it is wet and windy and frankly horrid outside then it is easy to think sensible thoughts, but, as I plummet back into the delights of Waterlog, I know that, come summer, it will all be too too tempting once again.