Book Review – Waterlog ( a swimmer’s journey through Britain) Roger Deakin


In Waterlog Roger Deakin sets out to swim his way across Britain taking us on a summer’s journey through leafy backwaters, plunge pools in the hills, across the mouth of estuaries and through a series of outdoor swimming pools. On the way 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.

Roger is seemingly oblivious to social conventions which, in Britain at least, dictate that, nowadays, stripping down to your trunks or beyond and going for a swim in the local river is simply not on. He reminds us that it was not that many years ago when most people learnt to swim outdoors. With every stroke you want to cheer this man on. He liberates us from the chlorine filled crowded halls of our local swimming baths, he invites us to reclaim our rivers, lakes and forbidden waters, he encourages us to ignore what others might think of us.

This has been the perfect read for a winter in which rivers have been rarely out of the news. Usually because they have burst their bank,s like a convict escaping from jail. Waterlog reminds us that our rivers are also a national treasure which should be kept as wild as possible and not trained into concrete sewers.

Reading this beautifully written book I wanted  to head out and take back my local river by plummeting into it, but it is winter and the river’s are flooded and spreading across the land. Instead I am going to head to my local baths and learn to swim with the same elegance and economy as Roger so I will be able to sample their delights come summer.

Roger Deakin died before he ever had a chance to publish another book (although two further books were posthumously published) but Waterlog is a beautiful testimony to a fine writer and I like to think that, as the final line of the book tells us, at the moment of death he simply ‘turned and swam on into the quiet waves.’


3 thoughts on “Book Review – Waterlog ( a swimmer’s journey through Britain) Roger Deakin

  1. Recommend following this up by reading “ The Wild Places” / Robert MacFarlane. Roger Deakin, and Walnut Tree Farm feature throughout the book and it includes his tragic and untimely death in the beautifully written account.
    The work is written in his (Roger’s ) memory and has all the more power & resonance as a consequence.

  2. Titles look good, so on my short list, thanks.
    It seemed only the whirlpool of the Corryvreckan stopped Roger’s enthusiasm of swimming in, and through, every conceivable kind of waterway in this country. Midges, icy waters, dallying with the prospects of hepatitis B, polio & other undesirable bacteria, a gorge from ‘Hell on earth’… all posed no barriers. How did he survive it all?
    Yes, “Waterlog” is a fully engrossing, deeply satisfying read and an equal match to his other highly acclaimed masterpiece – “Wildwood”.

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