Have you given wild swimming a go? Peters takes you on a poetic journey of the Borderlands with Dip…
Surfacing from depression, Andrew Fusek Peters decides to swim his way back to happiness. But indoor pools and lidos do not appeal. He is drawn to untamed landscapes and the free-flowing waterways that pattern the British countryside, to wild swimming. Life-affirming and courageous, Dip is a personal journey through the wonder of water.
Ludlow Weir, River Teme
“I stand on the lip of Ludlow Weir, water bursting over the edge and furring my feet with its brown coldness. I’m poised to dive, clothes piled on the gnarled concrete bank behind me, near to where a group of teenagers are already tucking into cans of cider with percentages designed by manufacturers to help the imbiber work out how fast they can get pissed. I’m hoping they don’t nick my stuff. However, they seem intrigued by the middle-aged beanpole in trunks, preparing to embark on a curious activity: swimming, in a river.
Fraught with delicious anticipation and pestered by the sensible monkey who whispers in my ear that what I am about to do is barmy, I dawdle. The moment reminds me of standing on a similar lip, in the middle of a Leicester industrial estate not so many years ago. It was the top of a vertical ramp about thirteen feet high, the curve of it edged by a scratched metal rail, and my mode of transport was a skateboard. Not the tiny modern boards no bigger than Pop-Tarts favoured by teenagers, but a proper, full-blown deck for grown-ups, with fast wheels and even faster bearings. I was forty-three and I knew I was either about to hurt (a lot), break something or live. I stood with my right foot on the tail of the board wedged over the edge. All I had to do was press down hard and quick with my left, front foot and gravity would do the rest. A proper mid-life crisis. And I wasn’t the only one. We even had an online forum– middle-age-shred.com. All those guys and girls from the Seventies who had been there at the beginning of skating and had worked out recently that they weren’t getting any younger, life was too short, etcetera. Surprising fun was to be had, adrenaline to be tasted. We’d hire out skate parks for a night and hit the north: Blackpool, Wigan, Bolton and Burnley where indoor wooden ramps resounded to the rush of polyurethane.
Now, as then, I had an audience of teenagers. That lot were perhaps rather keen to see me bail. YouTube is full of accidents with millions of hits. I prayed to the gods of speed and leaned forward with all my weight. In the rush that followed as I fell, then accelerated out of the curve and onto the flat, I forgot to breathe. The teenagers burst into applause. An old man dropping vert. What a sight!
Those years have gone; my second adolescence packed away in the garden shed along with memories of those momentary flights; the dip and soar of ramp-riding. As for the bruised collarbone, wrenched shoulder, torn ankle ligaments….Well, a swim is statistically safer, even with the risk of drowning.”
Dip: Wild Swims from the Borderlands by Andrew Fusek Peters (Rider Books, paperback 8.99) and can be purchased here. You can also browse the rest of the books section for more outdoor-related literature.