Sunday book review – Wild Waters by Susanne Masters

This is a book for those who like swimming in the sea, lakes and rivers and might be interested in the wildlife that they come across, rather than a guide to aquatic life for the naturalist. On that basis I think it does a good job and works well. For those who plunge literally headlong into the water but want to dip their toe figuratively into wildlife then this is a gentle, coaxing and accessible introduction.

Although the last and sixth chapter is entitled ‘Wildlife’ it is the longest and there are plenty of references to wildlife in the other five as well. Overall we are introduced to the aquatic environment, its differences from land, the possibilities of foraging there, and the changing seasons. I particularly enjoyed the unpredictability of the chapter entitled ‘Catching Memories’. I learned lots and the information was absorbed from the pages almost as though in conversation with the knowledgable author. I enjoyed hearing (I mean reading) about Romans and Piddocks, the tase of whisky and marbling of paper.

There is a slight peculiarity in reaching the last chapter and reading some alphabetically-ordered and interesting accounts of selected species, in that one is often taken from the freshwater world (of, for example, Caddisflies, Mute Swans or Pike) straight to the marine world (of Cuckoo Wrasse, Orcas and Porbeagles) and back again but the species accounts are fresh and engaging. They are rich in interesting information, stories and history.

The illustrations, by Alice Goodridge, grew on me the more I looked at them. At first I flicked past them to get to more words but when I paused and looked into them I enjoyed them very much. The cover? Does a job and is appropriate and I’d give it 7/10 but some of the illustrations inside the covers are even better.

All in all, a good book which I hope will appeal to the apparently growing numbers of wild swimmers. I’m slightly nervous that the more people take the plunge and go swimming the more wildlife will be disturbed but there has to be some live and let live, and as the author points out, the more that people who use the aquatic environment have their eyes opened to wildlife around them, the more they will care for its future.

Wild Waters: a wildlife and water lover’s companion to the aquatic world by Susanne Masters is published by Vertebrate Publishing