Back in 1587, Everard Digby published his book: De Arte Natandi – that is to say in English – The Art of Swimming. At a time of hostility towards river swimming, Digby tried to elevate the sport from Wild Swimming to a Science. His book gave advice not to swim alone and to limit one’s adventures to the warmer months from May to August, which all sounds pretty sensible to me.
In our modern age, Wild Swimming is again sneered at by some. Surprisingly though, the reasons for the current attitude of prejudice remain much the same. Today those who venture into British waterways are seen to be just as eccentric as was Digby and his followers. The interim between Digby’s day and the situation now, saw the rise and fall of the great British Swimming Empire. Much was accomplished as the English braved the waters and conquered their fears of getting wet.
Will 2011 be the year of the Wild Swimmer? The good weather we have seen so far has certainly encouraged many to dip their toes into the water. Yet this has not gone unnoticed by the powers that be. Digby sought to reduce the risk of drowning through education, whereas many authorities see swimming bans as the most rational approach. The battle for Britain’s waterways is now well underway as Wild Swimming is here to stay.
- Read the history of outdoor swimming – wild swimming (swimmingnews.wordpress.com)