Book review: Swimming Wild in the Lake District by Suzanna Cruickshank. Published by Vertebrate Publishing £17.99

SUZANNA Cruickshank is an outdoor swimming guide based in the Lake District and is therefore extremely well qualified to advise about Wild Swimming – this up and coming pastime that is being enjoyed by more and more people each year.

Fourteen different stretches of water are covered in this book. Often they are referred to as “Lakes” but in fact there is only one Lake in what is called the Lake District. This is Bassenthwaite Lake near to Keswick. All the others are Meres or Waters e.g. Grasmere, Windermere, Coniston Water, Ullswater etc. They range from the largest Windermere at 10.4 miles long to lowly Devoke Water at 0.73 miles in length, and from Wastwater at 250 feet deep to Devoke Water at only 46 feet deep. However, three major stretches of water in Cumbria are not included in the book – Ennerdale Water, Haweswater and Thirlmere as all these are classed as reservoirs providing drinking water to the populations of Lancashire and Greater Manchester and are therefore restricted as far as swimming and boating is concerned.

I have swum in some of these “lakes”, usually voluntarily but on an odd occasion accidentally when I have gone overboard in a sailing dinghy or capsized in a canoe. I can therefore testify that there is an exhilaration from swimming in these areas which are surrounded by magnificent fells.

In each of the chapters in the book the length of the stretch of water is given along with the maximum depth and the average depth. The best points to access the water are also given. On some of the smaller “lakes” this is a single access point whilst on the larger ones up to seven suitable launch points are listed; the average being 3 or 4 points of access.

The book is full of useful tips for both new and experienced wild swimmers; it contains sections on getting started in wild swimming, how to look after your own safety and impartial advice on all the essential kit you’ll need. Illustrated with stunning photography, and featuring overview maps, the book has all the practical information the reader needs to plan a wild swimming adventure, including access to the “lakes” by car or public transport where possible, thorough information about the best wild swimming locations on all 14 stretches of water and details of the best pubs or cafes for a much needed post swim drink or meal.

In the book Suzanna vividly describes her own wild swimming experiences and brings the characteristic of each “lake” to life. For both the experienced wild swimmer and also the novice wishing to dip their toes in the water for the first time, this makes fascinating reading and inspires the reader to take up this fascinating sport.

by John Burland