Country diary: a short swim to an island in need of love


Kirkham Abbey, North Yorkshire: Amid the litter and invasive plants, there are delights to be found on this island built largely from shells

I’ve been eyeing the island below the weir for a while. There’s an Environment Agency footway over the sluice from the far bank, but to cross that you need keys, or the chutzpah to climb three locked gates and ignore a lot of signage. From this side, though, the only barrier is the water itself. As I watch, a grey wagtail flourishes up and over, as if stating the obvious.

Decision made, I strip, hide my clothes, stuff phone, towel and a bin liner into a dry-bag, and step into the river’s chilled green silk. It takes just 30 seconds to cross and scramble into a world whose specialness is the kind generated by the hocus-pocus of property law. Almost nothing brings my attentiveness closer to that of a wild thing than trespass.

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