For more than a decade Rob Fryer one of the fore fathers of wild swimming has painstakingly researched visited and catalogued the best places to swim outdoors in Britain. His extensive Guide may not have the gloss and flourish that have pushed Daniel Start’s Wild Swimming and Kate Rew’s Wild Swim to their enduring place in the best seller’s book list, but his Guides’ popularity stems from its practicality in that it shows us where to find so many family friendly swims right on our doorstep together with colourful anecdotes and touches of social history.
Rob constantly updates his self published directory and distributes it through his website and a number of bookshops. One such outlet a bookshop cum coffee shop in a large village near Dinton sold 8 copies last year and this in an area where outdoor swimming is banned. The shop proprietor has had people complaining that this book should not be on sale. We can only conclude that they must be local fishermen who are objecting to this guide because it encourages mutual respect and a sharing approach when it comes to our liquid assets. Some of the fishing community would prefer that rivers and lakes be reserved for their exclusive use and want swimmers kept out. At Dinton the fishing club has erected a steel gate and barbed wire to block the riverside walk.
Throughout Scotland, through much of Wales and across Europe, swimmers have the right to swim outdoors in the sunshine. Here in England a culture of prejudice towards open water swimmers developed as British culture adjusted to an incredible rise in the popularity of swimming once Mathew Webb conquered the channel in 1875.
If you have read one of the major wild swimming guides and would like to discover what lies beneath the gloss of the wild swimming story, chose from one of the following:
Swimming Against the Stream by Jean Perraton 2005 to be updated and revised in 2012.
Rob Fryer’s Wild Swimming Guide (new edition 2012/13 now with maps)
Hung Out to Dry, Swimming and British Culture by Chris Ayriss 2009 – 2011