Blickling Mill / John’s Water: first river swim

I was keen to start river swimming, and had been looking at maps and guides and rereading Roger Deakin’s Waterlog during a hot spell in early September 2012, but wasn’t sure about taking the plunge on my own.

So I persuaded my friend Anita to come with me, and after a long hot cycle ride around Blickling and surrounding villages, we arrived at this popular swimming hole in the river Bure where families were watching their children playing in the mill pool. We quickly changed into swimming costumes and dashed into the water before we changed our minds.

The  water was very cold — much colder than the sea on the north Norfolk coast where we’d swum the day before — and I screamed as the cold of the water hit me. But I forgot the cold in the fun of swimming round the quiet waters on the far side of the pool then being ducked under and pushed along by the force of the water coming through the mill race.

Roger Deakin puts this better:
“I plunged in and was soon out of my depth, swimming with the eddy up towards the mill-race where it started from the bridge. Then I launched myself into it and shot down river into the weed carpeted shallows…. I circled the pool twice more, shooting the rapids of the mill-race, crazed with the opiate cocktail the brain and body must have sluiced into my frozen veins.”
( Waterlog, swim 23 October, pages 292-3, 1999, Waterlog on Amazon).

bridge with boy mid jump into water below
Boy jumping from bridge into Blickling mill pond

As an inexperienced river swimmer I didn’t realise that sitting around, even in warm sunshine, doesn’t get you warm. Better to have set off on a brisk cycle ride. But it was hard to tear ourselves away from this beautiful spot, and it was entertaining – and terrifying – to watch the boys jumping off the bridge into the deep water, executing graceful tuck jumps and back twists, while smaller children played in the shallows.

Blickling Mill / John’s Water location details

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