Caught by the River


18th September 2012

We often cite the late, great Roger Deakin as one of Caught by the River’s ‘patron saints’. Although Roger died before we started doing the site, his book Waterlog was one of the holy grails that got us going. The boundless enthusiasm for life – and mischief – and the thoughtful intelligence that jumps from each and every page of the book strikes a chord with us today as much as it did six years ago.

Roger’s legacy is easy to see – it’s safe to say that he’s already proved inspirational to many and will undoubtedly continue to be so. In the books of his great friend and companion Robert Macfarlane the adventure continues, whether in revisiting Holloways or walking the Old Ways. Through so much of Robert’s prose, it’s clear that Roger is never far from his thoughts (and deeds).

Now, two of our readers have been inspired to pay tribute to Roger online by starting sites devoted to Waterlog. Read on to find out more.

“I turned off down a timeless sandy avenue of oaks, potholed by rabbits, to a distant farmhouse on a promontory jutting into the wide Blyth marshes.” (p. 330) pic by noblueskies

Words by Joe Minihane. Pictures compiled by Ryan Shepard.

Waterlog, Roger Deakin’s wild swimming masterpiece, is almost fiction-like in its ability to transport you to a place through sheer imagination. It manages to turn the most humble of riverbanks and quarry pools into almost mythical destinations. It’s the reason I’ve started Waterlog Reswum, a blog charting my attempts to visit each of the swimming holes in the book and, clearly, why fellow Waterlog acolyte Ryan Shepard has decided to compile Flickr galleries of spots where Roger took a dip while writing the book in the late 90s.

“Next morning I . . . walked across Tooting Common to ‘the Bec’, the Tooting Bec Lido. Its sheer size amazed me.” (p. 312) pic by JPD Buckley

Each image is accompanied by a quote from the book, with the seven sets of photos following the journey from the first swim at Bryher in the Scilly Isles, through to a final icy dip at Walberswick on Christmas Day. For someone who’s not yet been fortunate enough to visit each and every river, lido or sinkhole in Waterlog, this collection of impressive images only makes me want to drop everything and slide feet first into the water. I can only dream of how these shots would look as part of a fancy coffee table book edition of Roger’s finest work.