I was undeterred by the sight of a gaggle of ‘Run Doggy Run’ dogs being hauled into the water for a splash. Not even after one particularly enthusiastic hound decided to urinate over some reeds.

I’m sure his pee is already thoroughly diluted. Besides: worse things have certainly oozed in that water unseen, but still. Slightly distasteful to actually witness the event.

There is something magical about the swimmer’s view of the world. Instead of being on top of everything, you are 95% submerged. The banks rise up and the horizon stretches on forever as you gaze over your belly down stream.

The view inspires awe, as the panorama from a mountain top. Except instead of being high up you’re as low as a human can go without the need for an aqualung.

There is traffic: two narrowboats wash past, one up, one down. But mostly my company are the flies that skate above the water, feeding on minute unseen winged creatures.

The water is cold at first, then cool. The current urges me back towards London and I have to fight to stay where I am. There’s a metaphor buried somewhere beneath my frantic paddling.

The banks are bursting with colour, predominantly of the green shades. But there’s also the butter of buttercups among the voracious white sprigs of cow parsley.

A day with a swim is always better than a day without a swim. Am I wrong? The sea often takes all the attention of swimmers in this country, but many more of us live near some other kind of water course.

It’s out there now, gliding past but always there, waiting for you.

p.s. If you are cautious about cleanliness, then you can always look up your local watercourses on the Environment Agency Data Explorer. Where I swam rated ‘Good’ for chemical pollutants and ‘Moderate’ for ecological pollutants (high in copper – whatever that means).

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David Charles is co-writer of BBC radio sitcom Foiled. He also writes for The Bike Project, Thighs of Steel, and the Elevate Festival. He blogs at

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