Now that the election’s over, there’s little need to alert the Red-Tops but this evening one of my little secrets was blown wide open on BBC4. Alice Roberts (of Coast fame) had a new programme on Wild Swimming in which she explores rivers, tarns, rockpools and caves as more exciting places to go swimming. I have never explored the Wye or Dart or limestone caves as she has done. But where once I thought clandestine aquatic thrills were my own little secret, but even if BBC4 is barely mainstream, the word is out.
Before I had ever heard of Alice’s guiding guru Roger Deacon or his book Waterlog, I had been sneaking off to explore stretches of wild water. If I could snag a boat or canoe to do so, that usually only part satisfied my curiosity. I would want to return to explore in and under the water, as well as on. It started as a child off when I found kelp beds off Platcock and crannies in the Red Leck on North Berwick’s East Beach so much more fascinating than the pristine outdoor pool. It continued with the rocky coast, varied lagoons and lively rivers of northern California while I was there.
Wild swimming is neither sociable nor cosy, often involving cross-country scrambles, often at odd hours and needing a wet suit as protection against the cold. From North Berwick the river/lake options are limited; the lower Tyne has some fabulous unspoiled pools and wildlife but the Peffer’s too muddy and Pressmennan too small. But the coast has endless possibilities. East of the kite surfers at Gullane Bents, Eyebroughy, Fidra, Lamb and Craiganteuch are all reachable from shore (best at slack tide in neaps—never on a flood/ebb or in springs). With snorkel and mask the inshore either side of North Berwick is full of kelp forests to explore and a seaweed garden in the West Bay is as colourful as any on land. Just leave the creels and the ropes that link them alone, although a sneak peek at the catch is always worthwhile.
So Alice & BBC4 have blown my cover. My dark little secret is out, how I splash off for some aquatic relaxation, often when sensible people are in their beds. But watching the moonlight dance across the water from a darkened town while bobbing off the Maidens is one of my more unusual and vivid memories. Seems like, in future, I may just have to share such glories with other people.