One of our books we are most excited about this summer is 'Wild Swim'. Executive editor Richard Harvell has probed author Steffan Daniel about the process of writing it.
- What is 'wild swimming'?
Wild swimming means leaving the comfort of your regular man-made swimming pool, getting out into the fresh air and going for a swim or a dip wherever you can find water. It's about experiencing the world from a different perspective, enjoying nature's free playground and becoming excited about exploring lakes, plunge-pools, riversand waterfalls! Where there's water, there's wild swimming!
- Is Switzerland a good place for wild swimming?
Switzerland is an amazing place to swim. There are thousands of spots dotted across the entire country – this book is just the tip of the iceberg! There's a prominent summer swimming culture here. The sparkling freshwater caters for all levels. A brave few even venture into the lakes in the winter... Lots of tourists come here for the mountains, but an increasing number are realizing that it's a great destination for water sports too.
- How did you find so many good spots? How did you manage that in one summer?
I spent a lot of time scouting online maps and created a bucket list. Switzerland's swim spots aren't really reported widely so it required lots of insider tips to get me started! Soon I realised that many places had to be visited in person to know if a swim was even possible – there were loads of spots hidden away amongst forests and cliffs that you just couldn't see on Google Maps. So I designated lots of weekends (rain or shine) to explore each region, kicking off 2017 with a chilly swim in March, in a stream near Basel. It was freezing and surrounded by mud. I was hooked immediately.
- Tell us about one of your favourite spots.
That's such a difficult question! There are so many cool places to visit, and I couldn't possibly narrow it down to one spot. I liked experiencing places that were a little different, those places which required effort to access, or places that told you something about the region. Some of the busier spots were fun too, because there was always a good atmosphere – everyone was just having a good time being in or near the water. I'm always looking forward to finding the next spot – Switzerland is full of surprises!
- Any places you swam that didn't make the book? Why?
Some places looked great on the map, but when I arrived, I realised they were large reservoirs or steep gorges with no access to the water. Some spots were even empty, full of dry rock, and others just looked dangerous. I guess that's the nature of exploring – you win some and you lose some!
- You have some urban spots in the book, like the Rhine in Basel or the Aare in Bern. Is that really 'wild swimming'?
Of course! Some of the best outdoor swimming can be found in urban places here. In Switzerland, the rivers are very clean and there's a fantastic culture of river floating as a way to absorb the city sights and atmosphere. Many city dwellers choose to float home downriver after a hard day's work. There is probably no better way to unwind and clear your head.
- What is the best compliment someone could give you about the book?
I'd be delighted if the book gets more people to connect with the outdoors, and if it inspires people to explore parts of Switzerland they've not seen before, especially people who have lived here all their lives. There's still so much to explore!