I’m not really one for getting the bug for something. I can hugely enjoy things without feeling the urgent need to repeat the experience ad infinitum. River swimming is a case in point. I loved reading Roger Deakin’s Waterlog, Kate Rew of The Outdoor Swimming Society is a mutual friend, I can even watch Robson Green’s wild swimming programmes on the telly. I tried it once, 3 years ago, in the river Teme at Leintwardine on the Herefordshire, Shropshire, Powys border and loved it. Ducks swam alongside, dragonflies and an elusive kingfisher darted around, I got my legs tangled in weed and Alex looked on from the safety of the bank, resolutely committed to not swimming in situations where he can’t see the bottom of the pool/river/lake. And then nothing, no urgent rush to go again, occasional times when I packed a pair of trunks into a bag on the off chance that I would find a suitable site and time, but no actual body in water experiences.
But 2 nights ago the urge hit me again. We drove to Leintwardine from Ludlow cross country, along narrow lanes crowded with late season umbellifers, the river to our left, the road above it offering sneaky peaks of its meandering course. We sat at the Lion by the river having a drink (the same spot that I had swum in 3 years ago), and a plan formulated itself. As an aside and despite the river frontage I don’t recommend the Lion go instead to the Sun Inn – it’s a pub with character (not a tarted up version of Cotswold character, but proper interesting history and people . . . and character).
I studied an OS map that evening, found a suitable footpath and yesterday made a late afternoon beeline for it. Barely deep enough for a proper swim it was still glorious. To get to the bank I crossed fields that double as flood plains, punctuated with clumps of marram grass and wild iris, the lambs feeding on this still looking relatively young. The river was low, a handy shingle bank allowed easy access to the river; swifts and buzzards circled overhead, the occasional screams of the latter no doubt prompted by the pasty skin exposed beneath them. It was good.