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.
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. This is a book for outdoor swimmers, nature lovers and all who prize the wild and free.
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).
“This is a tangible book. It’s as alive as weather. She does the opposite of what we often get from nature writing: she absolutely roots it in ordinary experience. Lynne doesn’t fanny around elevating it all into something purposefully transcendent. Instead, she draws the branch down towards us, so we can easily grab the apples. Rocks are ‘layered and striped in shades of bruise’. Swimming through a tricky rock arch, she says ‘we were all high as teenagers at a rave’. She encounters rocks the texture of ‘fossilized Cadbury’s Flakes’. Her descriptions are vivid, but they’re familiar, and often domestic. She’s used the prosaic normal detail of our lives to describe landscape and nature, and the effect is something higher, a kind of magic.” Jenny Landreth, Caught By the River (read the full review)
“It’s nature writing like no other. Lynne manages to evoke her moorland home of ancient woods and timeless water and weather, to conjure up a world that seems so far apart from our sanitised modern experiences, at the same time as throwing in lines like ‘as high as teenagers at a rave’ or ‘felt like I’d had six pints of scrumpy’ that are so real and refreshing, so not of the modern cult of nature writing, you feel as liberated and happy as if you’d had a cold swim yourself (and then got out to find a free world in which feminism and anti-ageism had won their battles overnight.). She’s brave and daring. Anyone who thinks Roger Deakin was wild will need to recalibrate…. A fantastic life-enriching, spirit boosting read.” Kate Rew, Outdoor Swimming Society Director