03/06/2016 by Carl Reynolds
A few years ago, around the time I was finally learning how to swim front crawl, I had the pleasure of accompanying Dan Start on his research in the Lakes and Dales of his first Wild Swimming book. See the revised version here. And in the last year I have had the privilege of aiding the composition of, by way of posing, the book Wild Swimming Walks by Sophie Pierce and Matt Newbury. Fabled authors of Beyond the Beach, a bay classic, replete with aquatic apes in nooks and crannies around Torbay.
I got one of these two free and the other I paid for. But as there are several pictures of me in the water in both of these books, I have an interest to declare. But, I contend that that should not influence your assessment of the veracity of my review(s).
Let’s start with Daniel Start and Tania Pascoe’s Wild Guide – Lake District and Yorkshire Dales. Here I declare another interest, I was born in the capital of God’s Own Country – a necessity to play for the county back in the day. That glorious part of England is separated into sensible quadrants – from around Clitheroe in the SW, to just above Whitehaven in the NW, just south of Darlington in the NE and above Leeds in the SE; and then you are given some highlights for each of the 20 sub-areas. And you get descriptive and alluring photography; sections on Swimming, Wildlife, Hilltops and Scrambles, Sacred and Ancient, Lost Ruins and Caverns, Food and Sleep Wild – each with directions, grid reference, a short description and photo. And at the back a long list of every grid reference mentioned in the book – ideal for a “let’s see as much as possible in one day” geek like me. At the beginning an overview of outdoor opportunities across the region draws you in, and some Best Of pages for each of the internal book headings lead you to your outdoor preferences. Am I glad I have a copy? Yes – even though I know a fair bit of it, I don’t know all if it. And it is a lovely thing to read and gaze at, dreaming all the while of realisable and unrealisable trips north again.
Now to Sophie Pierce and Matt Newbury. Their latest opus is Wild Swimming Walks – Dartmoor and South Devon. Subtitled, 28 lake, river and beach days out. I’m exhausted already! Joking aside, as a participant in some of the research trips, I can confirm that the walks exist, are navigable and are as described in the book. And what walks they are. Whilst there are many more to be found hereabouts, these 28 provide you with vistas, swim spots galore, access, directions, places of interest along the way and refreshments. I particularly like guidebooks that have words like, “The thatched King’s Arms is a 14th century village local pub, serving real ales, farm cider and hearty homemade fare.” My cheeks are going rosy as I type. So. I should have left you in no doubt that I believe you should buy this book. It’s fabulous, it does what it says on the tin and it does it quality.