Monday, 25 May 2009

Swimming Isis

The hot bank holiday weekend tempted us out yesterday for a swim in the Thames, called Isis in the stretch through Oxford. Eran and I plunged in from Port Meadow, a large flood plain where the river enters the city from the west. It's a beautiful stretch of open space inside the ring-road. This photo shows some floodwater on the meadow, not the river:

The water was surprisingly pleasant, not too cold although cold enough to keep our swimming time fairly brief, and the current was very gentle. The river's name and the month brought to mind the Dylan song opening:

I married Isis on the fifth day of May, 

But I could not hold on to her very long.

Wild swimming grew in popularity in this country following Roger Deakin’s Waterlog, but only boats, geese and dogs joined us yesterday, along with clouds of cotton-white willow seeds just now being released to the wind. The cycle route between our flat and the city centre crosses the Cherwell River three times because of the way it splits before joining Isis/the Thames a little downstream. Here's a photo of part of the island formed I took last winter:

The changing water has become central to the life of the city for me. Right now there are lots of tiny flotillas of goslings, ducklings and signets following their parents around and after nightfall on the bridges you can see bats dipping over the river to catch flies. If the summer’s a sunny one we’re hoping to immerse in the river a few more times before we say goodbye to Oxford and leave for Paris at the end of September.

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