Swim Stories .........................................................
Swimming wild in open water is seeing the land from a different perspective. This is strange considering we are speaking of water and not soil or rock. But it's soil and rock that water flows upon, through and over. Water is the land and land is water. Besides connecting with the land in this way swimming in open water also invokes a real primordial sense in that our waterways and seas are not often manicured as in the case of chlorinated pools. In this sense we leave aside the keeping up of appearances in the human world for a world that's bound by different rules. We are wild and expose ourselves to the risks that the human world has sort too obscure. This edginess stimulates our senses and makes us realise that we're not a sanitised being but one that moves in sync with the worlds natural rhythms.
This particular swim took place in the River Wye between the areas of Caradoc (Sellack), Backney and Ross-On-Wye. It was a combined walk and swim using a dry bag namely the Chillswim dry bag supplied by the company of the same name. A great bit of kit it allows us to hike and swim in open water at will. In this sense the stretch of water between Sellack and Ross-On-Wye was not swum in its entirety. A total of about 2KM were swum out of a total of 7Km that could have been swam. This was because a choice was made to cross overland at Sellack Bridge through to the old Gloucester to Hereford Rail bridge now abandoned at Backney Common. It was after all a hike and swim.
As former competitive swimmers we have swam open water for over 35 years and can testify to its safety beyond the rigid nature of the chlorinated pool. The risks are down to you and besides Pike there is not much that's going to nip at your feet. The dangers beneath the surface are often an illusion. the biggest danger is people's stupidity and gung ho. A great day in the water and out of it can be had for life.
On this swim we meet a university group, an old boy fishing with his dog, kayakers from Brighton and fishermen from the Black Country.
I get in the river at Caradoc Court estate, which has existed on the banks of this beautiful stretch of the Wye since the 12th century. Here amid the estate we meet a humorous group of Brighton Kayakers who meander on by letting me gently float beneath Hoarwithy Bridge: connecting Kings Caple with Hoarwithy, it was originally built of timber in 1856 to replace a former ford and ferry crossing. The second bridge was constructed of iron in 1876, and this was replaced in 1990 with the present suspension bridge depicted here. A favourite with hikers and ramblers I get out of the water at this point having swam just over 1KM. Walking over and admiring the bridge it's a sociable walk across the estate towards Baysham for the Herefordshire Country Fair is being set up for the following weekend.
Speaking to one or two people I head off for the remains of the Gloucester to Hereford rail line, which opened in 1855. The bridge at Backney Common is now abandoned but it does provide a great opportunity to swim amongst some huge stone pillars (see above) left over from this era of steam. This is not before a great meeting with some university students who join me from yonder on the adjacent bank of the common. Beyond the remains of the bridge an old boy who typifies the Wye outdoors is more than willing to talk with a swimmer who emerges out of the Wye waters. Not perturbed at all we speak of the Wye, fish stocks and the wild fowl. Buoyed by the friendly connection the swim continues for a short while past Black Country anglers that impart their passion for the outdoors and river. Resonating with the land a short hike into Ross-On-Wye ensues from the opposite bank at Brampton Abbots. In Ross it's time to catch up with the Brighton kayaking group who are sat overlooking the town just beyond Bridstow Bridge that services the busy A40 into South Wales. Extoling the virtues of the Chillswim dry bag, which contained my rucksack and clothes it's time for home by way of public transport. Satisfied the hiker swimmer arrives home with a glow that only the fluid adventures of water can inspire.
Roger Deakin set out in 1996 to swim through the British Isles. The result a uniquely personal view of an island race and a people with a deep affinity for water. From the sea, from rock pools, from rivers and streams, tarns, lakes, lochs, ponds, lidos, swimming pools and spas, from fens, dykes, moats, aqueducts, waterfalls, flooded quarries, even canals, Deakin gains a fascinating perspective on modern Britain. Detained by water bailiffs in Winchester, intercepted in the Fowey estuary by coastguards, mistaken for a suicide on Camber sands, confronting the Corryvreckan whirlpool in the Hebrides, he discovers just how much of an outsider the native swimmer is to his landlocked, fully-dressed fellow citizens. Encompassing cultural history, autobiography, travel writing and natural history, Waterlog is a personal journey, a bold assertion of the native swimmer's right to roam, and an unforgettable celebration of the magic of water.
Based on the Isle of Anglesey Natasha Brooks is an artist who lives and works in and around North Wales and Snowdonia. Having studied a B.A in Fine Art she has increasingly come to use video and photography as means of her expression, although still classes herself as a mixed media artist. In this video Blue Hue she explores Wild Swimming and the lakes and mountains of Snowdonia. The essence though is the fluidity and immersive properties of water. It's an evocative piece of work that draws you into the potential of water as a portal in which the stresses and limitations of everyday life can be ascended. Brilliant! VIDEO NO LONGER AVAILABLE. See Websites Instead. Below & Image Link Right.
Roger Deakin an extraordinary writer and observer of nature. For his Guardian obituary click here. For his memorandum on open water swimming to the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport click here
Wild Swimming Brothers - Click to enter
Colin Stone Swims The Wye - Click to enter