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Digital Subscriptions > Outdoor Swimmer > November 19 > Unsung heroes

Unsung heroes

Anna Deacon celebrates the wild swimmers that inspired new book Taking the Plunge

Last year I began to publish photographs of swimmers on Instagram. As the collection grew, I began to notice a pattern. A great many of the people I was shooting seemed to be there not just for exercise or because they loved the water, but because it was helping them cope with or push through something. Some were dealing with pain – fibromyalgia, autoimmune diseases, back pain. Others were battling depression or anxiety. Still others were finding that simply being in the water was helping them deal with some grief or other personal loss.

It was about this time that I first met Vicky Allan, and what began simply as a photographic study of our fellow sea swimmers in Edinburgh turned over the course of a year into a passion project that saw us travelling across Scotland to meet others who swam in wild waters. The stories they told often echoed each other. There were those who swore by wild swimming as pain relief. Others spoke of the way it stilled their anxious minds. Some described it as a kind of mindfulness. The resulting book, Taking the Plunge, is an exploration of the healing power of wild swimming for mind, body and soul.

OPEN ARMS

One thing that stood out to us unequivocally has been the unbelievably friendly nature of all the outdoor swimmers we met – their kindness, sense of fun, wonder at nature, responsibility for the environment around them, and most of all their absolutely inclusive attitude. Everyone is welcome regardless of age, ability, gender or job – all are ushered in with open arms, friendly advice, hot drinks and cake.

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About Outdoor Swimmer

Hello November – log fires, bobble hats and serene autumn swimming. Crisp water, falling leaves and a sense of calm before the icy thrill of winter, autumn is one of my favourite times of the year to swim. If you want to try extending your swimming season this year, a little bit of neoprene can go a long way – read our reviews of hats, gloves, socks and accessories in this month's Tried & Tested gear guide. In this issue we explore the benefits of cold water swimming on mental health. In 'Unsung Heroes' we celebrate wild swimmers, many of whom use their daily dip to help combat depression, grief and pain. And swim guide Pete Kelly takes a group of swimmers from mental health charity Growing Well for a cold water dip in Windermere. As always, this issue brings you training advice, destination and event reports, stunning swim photography and the most comprehensive UK and international event listings to help you plan your aquatic adventures.