“Walking and wild swimming are among the most democratic of leisure pursuits because they are free, require no special skills or training and hardly any equipment.” These opening words from the latest wild swimming guide to come from ‘Wild Things Publishing’ set the scene for a leisurely stroll through a list of days out that are easily accessible from London.
Attention is drawn to the reluctance of some land owners to allow swimming “…because they think swimmers will disturb money-spinning activities like fishing or boating, and in recent years they have also been motivated by fear that they would be liable for any injuries…” a very interesting observation is made: “Both private and public landlords justify the clampdown with misleading information about supposed hazards, the risk of drowning or catching a water-borne disease even though, for most of the dangers, the level of risk if applied to more commercial recreations would mean advising people never to ski, horse ride or play football.”
The book grew from seeds set in conversations at London’s Kenwood Ladies Pond on Hampstead Heath. Margaret Dickinson writes: “Growing up in Bristol I used to go for a walk or bike ride most weekends and would swim in any bit of water on the way that looked adequately clean.” Yet after moving to London she found the accessibility of country walks and swims somewhat harder to realise. Wild Swimming Walks contains 28 lake, river and seaside days out by train from London. It contains an excellent section on water safety, a history of the Hampstead Ponds and boasts an attractive array of colour photographs throughout.
Despite living in the Midlands I am personally familiar with four of the walks featured in the book and so I was able to assess the usefulness and accuracy of the information related to the areas I know and love (walks 7, 9, 17, 19,). The walks are well documented and mapped and take you to swims that are well worth your trouble, not just scenic spots where you can paddle and imagine you are wild swimming, but good deep water some with very long stretches to enjoy. If you have a dry bag and the weather is kind, you can always swim rather than walk for much of the way!
A very useful feature available to those who buy a copy, is the ability to download the walks and print them off so that you can keep your book free of the mud and water that inevitably mar the beauty of well used wild swimming guides.
This book with be especially appealing to those living in and around London, I hope it does really well and inspires further books in a series of wild swimming walks across Britain!