Sophie Pierce & Matt Newbury are the authors of “Wild Swimming Walks. Dartmoor and South Devon. 28 lake, river and beach days out.” The interview was conducted with Sophie Pierce.
1. How did you come up with the idea of writing a book on wild swimming and walking? Why Dartmoor and South Devon? Are these regions famous for their rivers, lakes and seafronts?
Matt and I have been friends for ages and both love swimming outdoors. Matt is born and bred in Devon, and lives by the sea in Torquay, while I live on Dartmoor with its many beautiful rivers and lakes. A few years ago we wrote our first book, about wild swimming in Torbay, and we wanted to do another book, but broaden it into walks as well. After all, you usually have to walk to the most stunning places! We just wanted to share the joy and fun of outdoor swimming, and show people how easy it was to have an adventure at home. Dartmoor and South Devon are where we live, and contain some of the most exciting and beautiful swimming spots in the world.
2. What were the most challenging and the most rewarding experiences in writing the book?
The most challenging aspect of the book was getting all the fine detail right, such as the distances, the map references, all the detailed information we have included, and being disciplined, taking notes as we researched the routes. It was also a challenge to fit in the research as we both work full time. Every weekend when the weather was good we were out there researching routes and trying to find new swims. The field research though was also extremely rewarding, as well as being fun. We also got quite fit!
3. Being a keen wild swimmer yourself, do you often meet many enthusiasts of wild swimming? Do you belong to a swimming club?
We have made lots of friends through wild swimming. We meet up on the Devon Wild Swimming page on Facebook and if someone is going for a swim, they generally post the time and the place and people come along. Generally, wild swimmers seem to be great fun, incredibly relaxed, friendly and non-judgemental. They are also great consumers of cake!
4. The photos in the book are so spontaneous and lively that the reader immediately wants to join you and jump into these wild waters. Why do you want to inspire people to follow your passion of wild swimming? Why is it so special?
We have just had so much fun, and also some truly unusual experiences swimming in natural waters that it’s simply about wanting to share that. A friend of ours has a phrase “You never regret a swim” and another friend says that when you come out of the water “your factory settings are restored”. Swimming outdoors seems to give you a natural high.
5. There are many references to local legends (quite dark, sometimes) in the book. How did you become familiar with them? Are they a natural part of the culture of Devon and Dartmoor, or did you come across them when reading books on these regions?
Bodies of water are often associated with legends, particularly on Dartmoor. Many of these legends go back hundreds of years into folklore and nobody really knows where they come from. But in all cultures water is incredibly significant, it is necessary for life itself, it is used in rituals of course, baptisms etc., so it is not surprising that stories grow up around rivers, lakes and the sea. Some of them we found out about through reading books, as there is a lot of literature about Dartmoor. Some we just found out about the traditional way – word of mouth.
6. What are your future plans? Do you have any projects you would like to work on?
Matt is working on a book about swims around the world, and is also thinking of working on a book about Cornwall. Sophie has started writing a novel set by the sea in South Devon.
Brilliant, thank you, we will follow your writing and travelling projects eagerly.
Interviewed by Bristol Language School
Photos courtesy of Sophie Pierce
If you would like to purchase a copy of “ Wild Swimming Walks”, you can do so here.