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Devon paramedic Lynne Roper began swimming outdoors in 2011 while recovering from a double mastectomy. Warm, funny and fearless, she was soon at the heart of The Outdoor Swimming Society, inspiring others to swim wild, ‘read water’ and take educated risks as she did.
For five years, until a brain tumour made swimming and writing impossibly hard, Lynne recorded her adventures in over sixty wild waters. Bel Pool, Mel Tor, Sharrah, Spitchwick, Horseshoe Falls, Fingle Bridge, Bugle Hole, Burgh Island: Like a swimmer’s version of the Shipping Forecast, Lynne tracks through the seasons places few know and less brave — freezing pools in hollowed-out Dartmor tors, sea caves stuck about with Dead Men’s Fingers, rivers in full spate where bouyancy is lost suddenly in froth and bubbles:
‘Foam maps the movement of water in Sharrah pool, and there’s an eddy I haven’t seen before on the far side; the current from the cascade reaches three-quarters of the way down, and circles in a spiral back up the far bank, like stirred coffee. Usually, there are rock-studded shallows at the lower end of the pool where you drift gently aground before the river is forced in a rapid through the narrows, but today the surge completely covers the rocks and there’s a real danger of being swept over. No swimmer would survive that trip…’
By turns lyrical and adrenalin-fuelled, solitary and communal, her diaries are a celebration of Dartmoor, the Devon coast and the close-knit communities that grow from shared endeavour.
Edited by Tanya Shadrick as a Selkie Press book with a preface by Jenny Landreth (author of Swell: A Waterbiography) and an introduction by Sophie Pierce (Wild Swimming Walks Dartmoor and South Devon).
First extracts from Lynne’s diaries – ‘Spitchwick’, ‘Sharrah’ and ‘Thurlestone Rock’ – are available in Watermarks: Writing by Lido Lovers & Wild Swimmers (Frogmore Press, 2017)
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