While swimming in the moat located in his own back garden, inspired by thoughts of his son's current quest travelling in Australia and John Cheever's classic short story, The Swimmer, Roger Deakin decided he would undertake his own adventure and swim across Britain.
The Rambling Association's Right to Roam campaign is well publicised in the UK, so should that not include our right to swim in our lakes, dykes, and tarns? Deakin was ready to prove it did and planned a trip around Britain which would take him to numerous wild swimming venues.
Waterlog, is Deakin's account of his journey. He seeks out tarns high in the hills of north Wales, swims with salmon in Somerset and eels in the Fens. He describes the nature he sees around him from his unusual perspective inches above water level. His love of swimming away from the confines of a swimming pool comes through strongly in his writing. Wild swimming is an unusual hobby in modern society as we are constantly told how our rivers and lakes have become polluted by large industries disposing of waste via waterways and chemical fertilisers washing off farmers fields into out rivers. During his visit to a weir on the River Avon in Worcestershire, Deakin's hosts and fellow swimmers show him a letter they have received from the local environment agency outlining the dangers of swimming in the river. The letter describes how sewage can constitute up to 80 percent of the river flow and increase the risk of catching Weil's disease. Deakin takes in the scientific argument, arguing that the figures show that very few people catch Weil's Disease in the UK and of those who do, they are invariably not river swimmers.
Deakin has produced a deeply personal account of his journey. He informs us of any cultural, historical or geographic points of interest in a highly descriptive writing style which does not, however, read as an adventure story. Unfortunately, this means there is no climax to the book as a whole, but it does mean each chapter stands alone as a description of each area. Together, they make an interesting read and leave the reader with a wealth of information from an unusual perspective. --Stephen Payne
-- The Independent, Simon Usborne