A Cambs dip, a jog, and a triple dip Sun 26 May: a Fenland adventure, dipping in the wake of Roger Deakin and Waterlog Reswum. These swims were part of six months of swim trips during summer 2019 to celebrate East Anglia’s waters, to mark becoming sixty, and to raise money for charities important to me.
I’ve known Wicken Fen for a long time – since I first began touring in a campervan early in the 1990s. It’s a beautiful and special place to walk, enjoy nature, and see glimpses of how a fen might have been before draining (with added boardwalks). I remember seeing the ancient peat-preserved bog oak Roger Deakin mentions. But I’d never considered swimming there until I read Waterlog. Since then I have longed to, and my Cambs trip seemed the ideal opportunity. I thought it would have been frowned on, but as he points out it is a navigable waterway.
I went along the boardwalk early in the morning. No one was about, dew was still wet, and it was quiet apart from the birds. I went in from the jetty into clean clear fresh water, in an area between reeds, with damselflies crossing overhead. I discovered that it was easier to get in and out on the other side by the towpath, but my clothes were by the jetty so I had to scramble out there. I dashed back to the car park as the first birdwatchers arrived.
Later I had a chat to a local resident as he got his kayak ready for a trip. He told me kids swam from the towpath in the summer and no one minded.
I didn’t originally spot the reference to the pool at the junction of two lodes, as I had been poring over an out of date OS map. But once I read Waterlog Reswum then reread the original I decided I wanted to find this mysterious pool. I got an up to date map and could see that it was not necessary to swim across the lodes to get to it as they had done, as there was a footpath running next to it. So I planned to jog there after my early morning Wicken Fen dip.
I set off to jog Adventurers Fen beside lodes and along a long dusty track. I left behind the new well-surfaced cycle paths that stretch all the way to Ely and Kings Lynn one way and Cambridge the other, busy this bank holiday Sunday morning; the last stretch was along a rougher and quieter path. I realised that not checking the distance in advance was a bit unwise, as it turned out to be 2.5 miles one way, the day was hotting up and time was passing fast. But I was determined to get there and go in.
I found a place to change, then went in to Reach Lode at a swan beach, out again, into the triangular pond, along by the shore, out, then through a gap in reeds into Burwell Lode, back out and returned the same way, struck by the contrast in the waters.
The lodes were warm, reed edged, silty bottomed, while the pool was clearer and felt deep. A swan kept an eye on me from a safe distance all the way, and a slight breeze ruffled the surface.
The jog back in the heat was tough and the next day I woke to find about 20 insect bites, but it was worth it. Next time I’ll cycle there or park closer. Roger Deakin swam to Wicken up the lode from Upware and walked back daubed in mud – I’m not sure I’ll do that next time!
[log 932, 933 a b c]