Wild swimming

Roger Deakin – at ease in the countryside as a poacher with deep pockets

Few authors have left such an immediate legacy as Roger Deakin. When he died of a sudden illness in 2007, aged 63, he had written just two books: Waterlog, which set off the wild swimming craze, and the even more influential Wildwood, which helped kickstart the publishing phenomenon of nature writing. Yet both books only really became well known after his death. During his lifetime he was, at best, a cult taste. When I approached the BBC 20 years ago with the idea that he should present a televisual version of Waterlog in which he swam ‘across’ England, through its ponds, lakes and rivers, I was told no one was

Serpentine swimmers slap down Matt Hancock

Oh dear. As part of his comeback tour, Matt Hancock is trying every trick to aid his post-Gina rehabilitation. There has been talk of a self-justificatory book, cringeworthy Twitter clips of him doing meet and greets, an appearance at the Capital Jingle Bell Ball in a dreadful turtleneck, backbench interventions and even talk of him mounting a leadership bid. But it seems one of Hancock’s stunts has backfired somewhat, after the master of the breast stroke was last week spotted taking a dip in the open-water swimming site of the Serpentine. For while Hancock, a guest of member and fellow former minister Lord Bethell, was keen to milk the conveniently-placed photographer’s snaps for all

The strange obsession with having the right ‘kit’

Have you got what it takes to go ‘wild swimming’? No, not so much the hardiness or the love of sinking your feet into the boggy bottom of a lake or feeling something brush against your ankle that could be a fish, a plant or something more sinister. Have you got the right kit? Outdoor swimming – or open-water swimming, wild swimming, ‘in-my-day-we-just-called-it-swimming’, whatever you want to call it – is enjoying a swell in popularity, and alongside what is supposed to be a simple pursuit is a growing obsession with having the latest equipment. It’s not just wetsuits – which a lot of purists eschew on the grounds that

It’s about time we cleaned up our filthy rivers

Cold water swimming has gone from an eccentric and very niche pursuit to something everyone is doing – and is very keen to tell you about, whether or not you’re interested. There’s been a bit of a backlash against the sport’s popularity recently, with a variety of objections. The first comes from the ‘in my day, we called it swimming’ brigade, who are particularly aerated about the current fashionable term ‘wild swimming’. It’s just swimming, they say, and people who do it aren’t any more special than anyone else. The second is the one that accompanies every new trend: it’s being colonised by annoying middle class types who are turning