Waterlog author Roger Deakin, the father of wild swimming, in a wild pond with his book lying on the bank

Waterlog: A Swimmer’s Journey Through Britain – by Roger Deakin

Posted on: BY: Saga Svensson
Tags: Deakin | environmentalism | Great Britain | The Swimmer | Waterlog | wild swimming

“Waterlog – A Swimmer’s Journey Through Britain” is the captivating, introspective account of BBC film-maker and environmentalist Roger Deakin’s novel and hugely inspirational journey through the seas, pools, and waterways of Great Britain. Published in 1999, the book serves as a mix of travel writing, nature exploration, and personal reflection on the profound connection between humans and water.

At the time of embarking on the challenge, Deakin was dealing with the grief of a significant breakup. As in the (both hugely underrated and excellent) short story and Burt Lancaster movie The Swimmer, in which the protagonist decides on a whim to ‘swim home’ from a party via the pools of his wealthy friends, Deakin, inspired by a deep love for nature and water, decided to embark on a swimming odyssey from the Scilly Isles in the south west corner of England to the North Sea north of Scotland, taking in as many swimmable waterways as possible along the way.

Deakin takes the reader on a literary voyage across the British Isles, describing his experiences swimming in the seas, rock pools, rivers and streams, tarns, lakes, lochs, ponds, lidos, swimming pools and spas, fens, dykes, moats, aqueducts, waterfalls, flooded quarries, and canals, as well as the run-ins he has with rules and laws, pollution and construction.

What makes “Waterlog” particularly compelling is Deakin’s ability to transcend the physical act of swimming and delve into the cultural, historical, and philosophical aspects of our relationship with water. The narrative is beautifully crafted, interweaving historical anecdotes, ecological observations, and poetic musings on the significance of water in our lives. Deakin’s prose is rich with vivid imagery, allowing us to vicariously experience the sensations of being immersed in the natural world.

Reading “Waterlog” will no doubt prompt you to reconsider your own connection to nature and water. Deakin’s narrative encourages a deeper appreciation for the beauty of the natural world and the therapeutic qualities of wild swimming. His reflections on the environmental impact of human activity also serve as a poignant reminder of the need of conservation, a need which is still greater for us in 2023.

It’s hard to understand how anyone might read “Waterlog” and not be inspired to shake off the slumber of regular existence and embark on an adventure of some kind. Deakin’s adventures are strangely addictive. The idea of releasing oneself from the stresses of the mundane, of feeling cold and alive like a fish, swimming in the secret and forbidden waterways of the world, feels strangely invigorating and rebellious. You could find yourself swimming in a dirty ditch before the week is out. And writing about it too.

With his book Waterlog, Roger Deakin continues to inspire devotees nearly 30 years on. He effectively started the wild swimming movement as we know it today. That movement is about appreciating nature, feeling alive, taking risks, drawing attention to the silent crimes of industry, and above all, sticking it to the man.

Deakin lived an incredible life; one i want to read more about (i just added his biography to my amazon wishlist), but he unfortunately died quite young. I’m glad that he left behind this incredible book to inspire future generations.

Disclaimer: Our swimming adventure content is not intended to take the place of specific, current, local advice from qualified experts. We strongly recommend that you consult with professional safety experts and take all necessary precautions should you undertake any adventure activity, especially in open water. Swimming is a HAZARDOUS activity. Never swim alone or beyond your ability. There is the possibility of physical injury, emotional distress and/or death, and you assume the risk and responsibility for any such results.

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