In at the deep end: the activists plunging into the wild swimming campaign

In at the deep end: the activists plunging into the wild swimming campaign

Despite the huge boom in wild swimming, most of England’s rivers and reservoirs are still out of bounds. Now lobbyists are diving into the debate…

One Saturday morning in April this year a group of swimmers assembled on the bank of Kinder Reservoir in Derbyshire and slipped into the icy pond. Signs reading “Danger Deep Water” and “Keep Out” surround the reservoir, which is operated by United Facilities, yet the 18 people were untroubled by the warnings. They had signs too, handmade placards held aloft as they bobbed together. “The Right To Swim”, read one.

To an observer, one head will have stood out among the party. Owen Hayman, 30, who boasts startlingly bright ginger hair, was the buoyant coordinator of the Kinder Swimpass, a protest swim so named for the mass trespass of Kinder Scout that took place 89 years earlier to the day. The original trespass was an iconic moment in the history of civil disobedience when around 500 ramblers marched over the plateau, the highest in the Peak District, in defiance of gamekeepers and the police. It caught the public imagination and marked a turning-point for the English land-access movement. National parks, footpaths and the right to roam are considered part of its legacy. Access to lakes, rivers and reservoirs are not. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, inland waters – and who is entitled to enjoy them – remain contested territory. Hayman and the other swimmers that braved the cold hope to change this.

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