Wild swimming is great fun! That's why river and lake swimming is encouraged and enjoyed right across Europe and America especially during the summer months. Young and old enjoy the freedom fun and adventure of cool refreshing water on those hot sunny days. Yet a different attitude has long been fostered in Britain. Here, open water swimming is most often portrayed as an activity for the hardy if not the foolhardy minority. British swimmers are shepherded out of open water to swim instead in the safer confines of the indoor swimming pool. But is outdoor swimming really all that dangerous?

wild swimming at Jacobs Well Texas

Before the construction of swimming pools during the industrial revolution naturally all swimmers swam in the wild. Refreshing, invigorating and healthful though this was, a change in culture saw wild swimmers chased out of open water rounded up and confined to indoor swimming pools. Today wild swimmers living near cities often struggle to find a suitable place to swim outdoors without facing censure or ridicule from either members of the public or from well meaning officials.


The public facilities once enjoyed countrywide on river, lake and canal banks have became out of bounds in most cases and swimming restrictions have brought an end to what many found to be one of the greatest pleasures in life. Hung Out to Dry investigates how and why we British now stand apart from Europe and America by restricting the liberty of the swimmer.

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The History of Wild Swimming

Hung Out to Dry is much deeper than a simple history of swimming. This chronicle of British culture exposes the rational behind our national obsession with constraining the swimmers freedom. Readers will be intrigued and fascinated by a rich and diverse treasure trove of knowledge, as refreshing and amusing as is wild swimming itself.

Wild Swimmers Hung Out to Dry

Read Hung Out to Dry and your eyes will be opened to possibly the most neglected aspect of our British heritage. A change in attitude that could have arisen nowhere other than in Britain; the birthplace of the industrial revolution.

Discover the the checkered history of British swimming, from the zeal of the conquering Romans; through years of religious and superstitious intolerance; to the health and safety obsessions of today.

The seaside holiday sparked the introduction of swimming costume, beach fashion and body consciousness. Then the construction of lidos countrywide improved the nation's health immeasurably, whilst at the same time introducing a sunshine and sunbathing era.

Chapter six focuses on the social history of swimming in the city of Leicester and the influence that Leicester personalities such as Daniel Lambert, Thomas Cook and Jennie Fletcher have had on the swimming world.

Discover how a clash of culture changed British swimming from an animated, outdoor, playful activity, mostly enjoyed by working class boys, into a very competitive sport, confined predominantly to man-made indoor pools.

This history of British swimming sheds new light on the development of British society, conveying insight and understanding as to the growth of our current prejudice towards wild swimmers. Discover how, despite restrictions, the desire to escape from confinement is propelling swimmers beyond the walls of the swimming pool, to return to swimming in the wild. Be inspired!

"A persuasive book... intriguing from the outset, a fascinating chronology of British swimming which goes much deeper than one might expect. Well researched and interestingly written... the historical ebb and flow of swimming popularity is quite remarkable." Swimming Times 

"...a thought-provoking and stimulating book, written in an accessible, direct and conversational style. It should be of interest to every outdoor swimmer." Outdoor Swimming Society

"Chris Ayriss's idiosyncratic approach is as refreshing as the waters he loves and the ebb and flow of his story matches that of meandering stream; you never know what is round the next bend." Spring 2014 Physical Education Matters 

"...a fascinating book ...very readable, informative and entertaining... excellent illustrations. Leicester Mercury

"This captivating book exposes for the first time the dramatic impact that swimmers have had on British morals and culture... Swimmers used to be common in the lakes and waterways of England. How were these sportsmen chased out of the great outdoor waters, and relocated to indoor swimming pools? Discover how pride turned to prejudice as swimmers sparked the development of British Prudery."Cornwall Today

Recommended: "Ayriss clearly loves open water swimming and his despair at the restrictions imposed on swimmers shines through... informed, entertaining and factual... The book is supported by an excellent collection of illustrations and historic photographs." H2Open Magazine

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