Simon Griffiths shares an open letter to Jeremy Clarkson

Thames Swimming C Katia Vastiau

Dear Jeremy,

Your article in the Sunday times about wild swimming was recently brought to my attention. It was entertaining. You have a witty turn of phrase. But it was ill-informed. And I wonder what provoked your dig at wild swimmers? Did someone streak across your estate and attempt a skinny dip in one of your babbling brooks? Or does it irk you that some people enjoy an activity that doesn’t involve high speeds and CO2 emissions? I doubt it’s genuine concern for swimmers’ welfare.

Your use of anecdote to make a point is effective but misleading. Yes, Melissa Compton did get ill while swimming the River Severn, but thousands of people swim outside regularly without any problems. I read about some poor fellow who crashed a car, nearly died and spent two weeks in a coma. Does that mean I should never drive?

I was concerned to read about the water tests on your farm. If it’s true that the samples were full of faecal matter, chemical waste and diesel fuel, it doesn’t look good for your land management practices. I assume you don’t get your hands dirty and do any actual farming yourself; you will have people to do that for you. I wonder if you’ve given them a good punching recently?

How sad that you find walking through nature “dangerous and unpleasant”. More dangerous and unpleasant than walking through a polluted, traffic-clogged city? Really?

Still, you’re right to point out that swimming in nature can be dangerous, but “downright suicidal” it isn’t. We wouldn’t have any readers if it were! Driving, by the way, can be dangerous too. More people die on our roads than in our rivers each year. And most of those who drown have entered the water accidentally. Swimmers (like drivers) who follow basic safety precautions rarely get into difficulties. Nor do they get ill.

It’s also not true that you can only wild swim by trespassing across other people’s land to get to the water. There are plenty of places, including most of the non-tidal Thames, where you can access the water legally and swim without infringing any laws. In fact, I’d be happy to swim a couple of widths of the river with you, if you like.

Like you, I’m not a fan of cold water, so let’s wait for the summer when the Thames often reaches a comfortable 20 degrees Celsius (that might be 68 deg F for you). It will take you a minute or two to get used to, but won’t give you chilblains. As for the quality, it’s a river so it varies, but if you time it right, it’s excellent (I’ve tested it). And you’re wrong about the fish. The other day I saw an angler pull out a large Zander. He put it back too. We also have a resident seal near Teddington Lock. He wouldn’t be there if there were no fish or the water quality was bad.

Let me know about that swim. I think you’ll enjoy it.

#SwimWildAndFree

Simon Griffiths

Founder and publisher, Outdoor Swimmer

01 Cover July

Issue 40 July 2020

  • Wild swimming in central England - our favourite spots
  • Mind the gap - socially distanced coaching
  • Racism in swimming
  • A history of other Olympic games disrupted by world events
  • Tried & tested - kit reviews of wetsuits, shoes and more!

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