This wide-ranging book explores why swimmers are so unwelcome in England's lakes and rivers, why this needs to change, and what could be done to make it happen.
After celebrating the joys of swimming through poetry and prose, and taking a quick dip into the history of swimming, Jean analyses the policies of public agencies that stop us swimming in lakes and rivers, and the legal constraints on access to inland waters that the 'right to roam' legislation has done little to improve. She shows that the statistics on drowning, and the health dangers of untreated waters, do not support the view of swimming as a uniquely hazardous activity. Swimming in natural waters is just the sort of 'sustainable' activity that public authorities should encourage - a healthy exercise that does little harm to the environment.
This is a practical book that suggests many simple measures that could widen opportunities to swim - immediately and cheaply. But, it argues, in the longer term we need a more comprehensive 'right to roam', similar to that in Scotland, and a 'right to swim' in our lakes and rivers.
Since its publication in 2005 there's been a resurgence in interest in wild swimming -- started by the late Roger Deakin and encouraged more recently by books, newspaper articles and television programmes. Behind the scenes, too, there's been progress in changing the attitudes of the policy makers and safety watchdogs - the Environment Agency, RoSPA and the HSE - as a result of campaigning by RALSA. But essentially the picture painted in this book is unchanged. It remains the only comprehensive analysis of the issues facing those who wish to swim freely in the rivers and lakes of England and Wales.
Swimming Against the Stream, updated edition 2013, is published by Jon Carpenter £16.99 (post free) or £13.50 (post free) from Jean Perraton, 247 Hills Road, Cambridge, CB2 8RP. Ask your local library to stock it and help spread the word.