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Waterlog: A Swimmer's Journey Through Britain

4.34 of 5 stars 4.34  ·  rating details  ·  570 ratings  ·  63 reviews
Inspired by John Cheever's classic short story, "The Swimmer," Roger Deakin set out from his moat in Suffolk to swim through the British Isles. The result of his journey is a maverick workof observation and imagination. ...more
Paperback, 340 pages
Published August 29th 2000 by Vintage Books (first published 1999)
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Waterlog by Roger DeakinFindings by Kathleen JamieCrow Country by Mark CockerH is for Hawk by Helen MacdonaldNotes From Walnut Tree Farm by Roger Deakin
British and Irish Nature Writing
1st out of 115 books — 43 voters
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. LewisThe Assiduous Quest of Tobias Hopkins by James FaroThe Code by James FaroThe Assiduous Quest of Tobias Hopkins by James FaroHomecoming by James Faro
Watery themes
64th out of 71 books — 24 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,239)
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Elizabeth
Four and a half stars really. So close to five, but I would have loved to have seen some pictures of the locations of his wild swims.

Really enjoyable.
Alasdair Pettinger
The subtitle - 'a swimmer's journey through Britain' - made me cautious. Round-Britain narratives all too often generate a lot of hot air about the state of the nation or dwell ponderously on scenes presented (in a common slippage) as typically 'English', usually nostalgic for a rural past that is fast disappearing.

Waterlog slips into this mode once or twice, but I was pleased to find that this book is not about 'Britain' (or 'England') at all. On the contrary, it brings a modern and cosmopolita
...more
Sophie Nicholls
This is one of my all-time favourite books.

Deakin's journey through the rivers, lakes and seas of the UK in search of wild swimming is at times melancholic and nostalgic but ultimately celebratory. It's infused with the feel of water on skin, the exhilaration of looking at the river bank from out in the flow of the river.

It's a love letter to swimming and wild water and the people and places that Deakin discovered.

How I wish he was still around to write more books like this and 'Wildwood.'
Amanda Brookfield
Roger Deakin is clearly an eccentric, but also an endearingly down-to-earth man. He has his own moat in which he swims regularly, with great humility and joy, and it is out of this joy that he hatches the plan to swim his way around the country. He sets off, dipping his way in and out of lidos, lakes, rivers and estuaries in a zig-zagging course that sums up the spontaneity both of the quest and of the person undertaking it.

I kept waiting for the episodes to become repetitious. After all, swimmi
...more
severyn
Author heads off on a leisurely and whimsical tour of natural swimming spots in Britain, plunging into rivers and ponds and lakes and, at one point, a stream that disappears into the ground.

On the one hand exhilarating, and on the other hand strangely saddening as Deakin local vignettes of a vanishing way of pre-industrial pollution life, the book is just slightly too long to wade through, ho ho, in one go, but nevertheless a great book to...dip...into.
Jane
I really enjoyed this mad Englishman's log of his swims around the UK. He managaged to draw me in to his rambles and atmospheric descriptions of the countryside and his swims. Clearly a lover of nature and throwing in the wacky histroy of the angling clubs, the industries that ranged along various waterways, and the health benefits of cold water, he demonstrated his passion for bathing outside.
Katherine Simmons
Subtly Deakin encourages you to think about swimming, to this point I have a cunning plan to swim again (once I get a new swimming cossie) especially as there is a place in this book mentioned that is easy at the moment to go to.
Tim Atkinson
An amazing journey through the wild and hidden waterways of Britain, by a man completely at one with the natural world. Almost prose-poem, a paean to the water goddess and to the wonders of wild swimming
Claire Smith
I heard about Deakin through the work of Robert Macfarlane, and now I've read one of his works I'm very sad that there will be no more books from this late author. This book is fascinating, and looking back I can definitely see his influence on Macfarlane's work. His style is lyrical but straightforward, and he wanders off topic far less than I was expecting from a book with such a nebulous central theme. There is an excellent balance between the factual and the emotional, I felt, and the book m ...more
Maria Longley
Roger Deakin had a moat! Amazing. In this book we get to hear about the year when he went off and swam in all sorts of amazing places: rivers, the sea, lidos, estuaries all around Britain. His descriptions of splashing and gliding though various water definitely made me want to go swimming too (and sad about the fact I only have a chlorinated pool near me). He really gets to some beautiful places and describes them all for us. We also get smatterings of history and thoughts and anecdotes and rib ...more
Dubes



Waterlog, a naturalistic account of a gentleman who takes some time out to swim in various wild waters around the UK. The introduction teases with an account of personal crisis, but the actual book is pretty impersonal, so I thought it was a bit of a tease to invite the reader to consider the private life of the author, this will delight some perhaps who come just for the poetic and nostalgic descriptions of swimming spots, but frustrate others who are hoping for insight into what drives the aut
...more
Seawood
Mmm. Have to say I was a bit disappointed with this one for two reasons:
- Not enough talk about swimming itself
- Not an actual trip around the UK. The vast majority of the book is south of Birmingham with a few detours to Wales, Scotland and Yorkshire. The Lake District merits just one sentence (he couldn't be bothered to go because it would be full of walkers) and absolutely nothing else for the whole of the North West of the country. One stop in Northumbria. Yorkshire represents everything, ap
...more
Oliver
This is a small gem of a book. Deakin's account of a year (or so) spent swimming in the rivers, fens, lakes, lidos, swimming pools, ponds and costal waters of Britain. Each chapter is dedicated swimming location so you can read the book in bits or as one epic journey as he sets out on a quest where he reflects on his relationship with water and nature. Deakin was a founder member of Friends of the Earth so the book is fully of details about the animals, plants and insects he encounters on his tr ...more
Paula Connelly
This wonderful book was definitely one to savour and I certainly took my time reading it.

The author describes his wild-swimming journey throughout the UK, writing in a very easy and yet beautifully descriptive style. If I had one minor disappointment with the book it was that most of the swims were concentrated in the south of the country, with just a few short chapters dedicated to northern England and Scotland.

I was initially attracted to this book as an introduction to wild swimming and, ha
...more
Sian Wadey
Waterlog: A Swimmer's Journey Through Britain by Roger Deakin

This review and rating is more a reflection of my likes rather than the book itself. Roger Deakin is a brilliant writer, there's no question in that. His writing is almost poetic full or rich similies and metaphors. The way he describes the rivers and the towns in which they reside makes the reader want to go there and visit. I unfortunately am not a fan of non-fiction, I struggle because of the lack of plot and 'the pull'. I wish I di
...more
Angela
I'm not sure about currently reading, this is a book that I have read several times and I return to frequently. A book about swimming doesn't sound at the outset like something that could hold much attention but Roger's approach to swimming outdoors - sometimes in places people don't want him to - and his knowledge of nature, other swimmers and other writers as well as historical context make it a journey that I gladly take again and again. Roger died in 2008 and the his enthusiasm and acceptanc ...more
Mousy Brown
A strange book but beautifully and poetically written. I loved the authors obsession with water no matter how cold and hard to find and every time I opened it I found myself thinking longingly of swimming and wild places.
Another book that is more the me I'd like to be rather than the me I am...there is absolutely no way I would get into the freezing, muddy waters he describes but oh how I wish I could! Especially enjoyed the chapters that mentioned places I have been and I think I may well visi
...more
H M Reynolds
A narrative about a journey to swim in various places around Britain.

Interesting to a point, yet somehow the author manages to make wild swimming (the notion of which as adventurous and slightly subversive appeals to me) seem quite boring an activity.
Joyce Barrass
If you love English countryside, water and words, this is an absolute treat. Quirky, delicious prose conjures up places you long to be swimming in! I found myself slowing down my reading simply to savour this book. I would read it again anytime!
Jo
This is a beautiful book. Natural history, travel writing - and a real adventure. Deakin writes poetically at times, deftly weaving together his view from the water with cultural history. His enthusiasm for wild swimming shines through. I will definitely re-read this again and again.
Camilla
This book makes me want to swim in all the places i've always thought I wasn't allowed to swim. I want to broaden my swimming from the very limited sea, quarry, swimming pool repertoire that I have at the moment and try swimming in rivers and lakes and ryhnes. The writing is beautiful and has made me look at every body of water I pass in a completely new light. I want to recommend this to everyone I know, even my Dad who can't swim.
This is a nice easy read, I chose to read it a chapter at a time
...more
Lee Belbin
Wonderful, eccentric
Julie Wake
Oh God how tedious!
Fiona
I deliberately had to slow myself down when I read this. He writes so well, painting such wonderful scenes of nature and describing the effects of nature on his senses. The beauty he describes, and his skill in doing so, have to be savoured.
I've only rarely swum in wild water and when I did it wasn't in the UK, but this book immediately made me want to rush out and find a river or tarn to plunge into.
I know I shall read this again and pick it up when I need something cleansing to read.
Ricky
I loved this book; it’s beautifully written and describes the swimming locations that Roger Deakin swam throughout the British Isles with an enchanting prose. He swims rock pools, rivers, streams, tarns, lakes, lochs, lidos, ponds, fens, dykes, moats etc.. It’s written with a different perspective that draws you in from the start. It’s an unforgettable journey and a travel book with a difference that will be long remembered after you have finished the book.
Claire
So inspirational it inspired me to have a quick dip in the river Itchen last Sunday - ouch - sooo cold. Roger must have had a pretty thick skin to do so much of that swimming without a wetsuit. Despite each page being basically about the same thing - wild (and occasionally pool) swimming - each dip was fresh and brimming with new descriptions of the sensations, the places, the people, the animals and the plants. Off to get my wetsuit now...
Jill Haiselden
A lovely book even if, like me, you aren't a swimmer. A very special journey through Britain.
Diane
Aug 12, 2008 Diane rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: any swimmer
Simple, eloquent, welcoming, without that trying-terribly-hard styel of writing that infests other nature writings. Appropriately wandering. Enjoyed the irritable outbursts, the hilarious bits about obstacles to the natural business of swimming in natural water. I'm grabbing my bathers and racing down to the Buscot Lock Pool (misspelt as Buscott here, tsk) on the very first hot day we get, which might be next July....
Sarah
Absolutely wonderful read, I enjoyed this from cover to cover. Really insightful journey as Deakin travels to wild swimming places, many forgotten in the UK with many historical references. Particularly enjoyed the first section of the book centred on Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire where I live. I have yet to be disappointed by any of Roger Deakin's books, he writes so well about nature and the natural world.
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Roger Stuart Deakin was an English writer, documentary-maker and environmentalist.

Educated at Haberdashers' Aske's and Peterhouse, Cambridge, where he read English, he first worked in advertising as a copywriter and creative director.

In 1968 he bought an Elizabethan moated farmhouse on the edge of Mellis Common, near Diss where he lived until his death from a brain tumour, first diagnosed only fou
...more
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