Waterlog Reswum

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“I drove out of Lincolnshire across country, past Sherwood Forest and Nottingham, to the southern extremities of the English highlands in the Peak District of Derbyshire, where the rivers Derwent, Wye and Dove flow down to join the Trent in the Humber at Hull.” The air is damp as we pull on our boots for the short tramp from the front door of our sprawling holiday home in the middle of Edale… Read More

    “When I had first seen the words ‘Raised Beaches’ on the map, recurring like an incantation, forming a ribbon along the western shores of Jura, I immediately wanted to tramp over to this wilderness and explore them.” Past the Inver estate office, up a car-wide track, clad head-to-toe in waterproofs, we stride out towards west Jura. A light rain whips across the sound from nearby Islay, as deer gawp at… Read More

    “When you enter the water, something like metamorphosis happens. Leaving behind the land, you go through the looking-glass surface and enter a new world, in which survival, not ambition or desire, is the dominant aim.” A fractured wrist in a brace, awaiting plaster, has laid my swimming plans for this lengthy summer low. Having swum in 20 or so of the rivers, lakes, lidos and beaches in Waterlog, my trip… Read More

    “The Wissey rises in a moated fish pond at a farm in Shipdham near East Dereham in Norfolk and quite soon runs through the never-never land of an army truing ground, forbidden to most of us for over fifty years, left undisturbed for months on end and, crucially, unformed. Thus insulated from modern agricultural pollution, the Wissey is one of the purest lowland streams in East Anglia.” The walk from… Read More

“I had entered a swimmer’s dream. People lolled half-submerged along the top of the weir, reading or sunbathing, while others paddled themselves in coracles, swam, dived, or just sat about in bathing costumes.” Led upstairs, through a warren of corridors and into the first-floor drawing room, the mill window is flung open. As the first of our three-man group throws himself forward and hurtles towards the water, my stomach lurches. Eased up… Read More

“I left my clothes near the bridge and walked barefoot on the warm sand along the over bank upstream for a mile and drifted back down, swimming gently with the current, pushing between the sensual weed, past more sandy bathing bays and sun-hollows in the miniature reedy dunes along the banks.” Leaving the car on a grassy verge just past Santon Downham’s iron bridge, the fast–moving clouds above Thetford Forest are threatening… Read More

  “Approaching the Itchen along College Walk, I came eventually to the water meadows and two or three piebald horses grazing by the river. I vaulted a low fence, steadying myself on a PRIVATE FISHING notice, and crossed the meadow to a convenient willow, where I changed into bathing trunks and a psi of wetsuit boots for the return journey from my swim.” There’s a ‘first day of school holiday’ buzz in… Read More

    “I returned through the meadows, swimming upriver against the gentle current to Mendham Mill, where the painter Alfred Munnings spent his boyhood.” Pulling into Mendham, past the Sir Alfred Munnings pub and up through hedge–lined lanes, our hopes of a mill pond swim in Roger’s footsteps are already looking unlikely. The satnav has warned us of private roads and as we park up, it becomes pretty clear that if we… Read More

“That evening, I went to Bungay in search of ‘Bungay Beach’, one of the town’s swimming holes, across the marshy wastes of Outney Common, where the river kinks into a two-mile oxbow.” The small beach appears just a few feet after we cross a broken wooden bridge. To call it a beach is perhaps a touch generous. More a sandy, gravelly inlet that shelves steeply into the slow trundling waters of the… Read More

“I entered the river from just below the village, at a bend where there’s a gently shelving beach of gravel and bits of old brick. From here, I drifted downriver all the way through the meadows, by pollard willows in a row down the far bank, overtaken by the occasional punt.” There’s a keen breeze as we click through the footpath’s final metal gate and enter Grantchester Meadows. The long grass sighs… Read More