All wild swimmers are on a journey.
A journey of discovery. A quest to find the next riverside dip, quiet lake or secluded cove.
And for many of us, it’s an internal journey too. An evolution. A realisation that there is great peace and fulfilment to be found in one of the most simple activities on earth.
To dive into open water, not for competition, not for challenge, but rather to commune with creation.
To just be.
It’s a revelation, a rebirth.
And my journey started many years ago….
Grandson of a sailor and son of parents who, when my father first qualified as a teacher in the early 1950’s, swam and surfed the pristine beaches of North Cornwall in both summer and winter, sunshine and wet, I suppose that I was predisposed to water long before I was born.
And water was an integral part of my very happy, blessed childhood. Be it belly boarding at Bude or river exploration with a net and jar, I was never happier than when my feet were wet.
All year my father taught evening classes so we could enjoy long summer expeditions abroad – holidays that always featured oceans, lakes and rivers.
Aged thirteen, I bought a simple snorkel and a whole new submarine world was revealed in an instant. I started to swim across the lake in the Auvergne where we were camped. And I just kept swimming. My ever-patient parents followed behind in a dinghy, enduring my tuneless humming, as I crossed to the other side – and then back again.
A second revelation came years later in Brittany when I first left my trunks on the shore and swam out into the setting sun, deep and amidst fish that were large, lovely and inquisitive. For a short but sacred time I had entered their world and would want to return again and again.
Around this time, although unknown to me, Roger Deakin was publishing his masterpiece, ‘Waterlog, a Swimmer’s Journey Through Britain’. It would be another twelve years before I would open its cover and so trigger the next stage in my evolution. For this book was a catalyst, rejoicing as it does in the beauty that is to be found in and around the waters of Britain. I was soon engrossed and dedicating as much time as possible to wild swimming.
Which is where I am now.
Maybe I will evolve futher. For example, I am not an ice-breaker, firmly believing that ice belongs in a gin and tonic! Neither am I an aqua-athlete, although I admire and salute those who swim on New Year’s Day and who undertake triathlons. But neither are for me.
What I am is a middle-aged chap who likes to swim gently and float softly in quiet places, who prefers the scent of wild honeysuckle to that of chlorine and who would rather look up at a leafy woodland canopy than a Speedo clock on a concrete wall.
I’m also a family doctor who firmly believes that this ‘green therapy’ is a powerful healer.
My journey continues.
If new to wild swimming, may I encourage you to start yours – to step out and dive in…
Clicking on the links below may give you ideas and inspiration …. enjoy!
One journey – many destinations
I am a journalism student making a short documentary about the rise of outdoor swimming and it’s benefits. I love your blog and the fact that you see outdoor swimming as a medicine. Could I perhaps speak to you about my project?
Just seen your message – apologies! Feel free to contact me again ….
Great blog, kindred spirits I think!, nothing better than a swim in the river dart or the sea as nature intended, one of my favourite places of happiness 😊