Anna Deacon is an Edinburgh based photographer and co-author of three books on her experiences with wild swimming which include Taking The Plunge. “I absolutely love a dip in freezing cold water, the rush of endorphins boosts me all day, the total immersion in nature inspires and enthrals me, the childlike joy and fun of it all, the peace that comes afterwards…if I can swim in freezing water then I can do anything!”
Hey Anna, tell everybody where are you based and what you do!
Hey! I’m Anna and I live in Edinburgh. I am a photographer and co-author of the wild swimming book Taking The Plunge, a tree lovers book For The Love Of Trees and our newly published books (with Vicky Allan) – The Art Of Wild Swimming Scotland and The Art Of Wild Swimming England & Wales.
I’m also writing a travel guide – Wild Guide Balearics, which comes out in March. I can mostly be found mooching around with my camera, swimming in freezing waters or writing in a frenzy trying to make deadlines!
How long has the outdoors been a part of your life?
I was lucky to have been brought up by parents who loved the outdoors and instilled a deep joy of nature in us. I have always felt a huge draw to be in wild places and in particular to the Cairngorms of Scotland which has always been where I feel most at home and where my heart really lies. I have lived in cities most of my adult life but I always seek out spaces within the city to be outdoors in nature; when in London I spent a lot of time in Richmond Park or Hampstead Heath and in Edinburgh I love to be beside the sea. However I am really at my absolute happiest when I’m among wild mountains, lochs, forests and rivers.
What’s been your favourite trip or adventure?
I have actually just this week handed in a three-year project of a book which I have been working on with my sister. It is going to be published by Wild Things in March 2022 and is called Wild Guide Balearics. My sister lives in Mallorca and so writing this book with her gave me the opportunity to explore Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera extensively, seeking out secret coves, climbing mountains, hiking for endless miles, finding hidden ancient ruins, swimming off the rocks and generally have a fab sister time.
I have been lucky enough to travel a lot in years gone by but I can honestly say my very best adventures have been with her doing this. I can’t wait to show everyone this book!
How do you find a balance between being active and life’s other responsibilities such as work and family?
It is an endless juggle as a working mum, finding time for myself is often nigh on impossible. Getting outdoors every day to walk the dog is a great opportunity to drag one of the kids with me and have some one to one chat time whilst getting some exercise. When I’m able to I love to sneak off alone for a swim in the sea or a run around the old train track trails in Edinburgh.
Is there anyone who has inspired your love of the outdoors?
My family for sure, growing up being outdoors so much and having my best childhood memories cooking sausages on a fire next to a river, or swimming in lochs, walking in pine forests, gathering wild berries and looking for red squirrels.
Now with my own family I am trying to do the same although it is harder the older they get and getting outside to play isn’t as attractive a proposition as sitting on a screen, but they always love it when they do go out!
Do you find that being outside has a positive impact on your wellbeing and mental health?
Without a doubt getting outside has saved me many times over. Just getting out for a walk by the sea is something I do every single day whatever happens. I struggle with overwhelm and anxiety and just simply being outdoors, breathing deeply and moving my body I can often work my way out of the worst of these feelings.
I also find I am the most inspired creatively when I’m outdoors so if I’m struggling with writer’s block I go for a long walk and often find the words come, or I take my camera on a walk and just see what inspires me along the way.
What is it about the experience of wild swimming specifically that you love?
I absolutely love a dip in freezing cold water, the rush of endorphins boosts me all day, the total immersion in nature inspires and enthrals me, the childlike joy and fun of it all, the peace that comes afterwards and the thought that if I can swim in freezing water then I can do anything! Plus a steamy bath and cosy pyjamas after a freezing winter swim is THE best feeling ever!
When did you discover FINDRA?
A few years ago I came across FINDRA when I was researching sustainable Scottish outdoor clothing and I really love what FINDRA stands for and the clothes are fab! The bobble hats are the absolute best for warming up after a swim.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
To just have a go. I do struggle with self doubt but my parents always encouraged me to just have a go at something, work really hard and follow my heart. Sometimes it doesn’t work out and sometimes it does but at least I know I tried!
What motivational message would you share to inspire others to get outdoors more?
Just go, you won’t regret it!
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‘The Living Mountain’ by Nan Shepherd is a glorious classic.
Written during the Second World War, The Living Mountain describes the incredible journeys Shepherd made into the regal Cairngorm Mountains of Scotland in a powerful meditation on the solace and strength to be found in the wilderness.
Alive by Sia
Right now I’m really enjoying listening to Sia’s Alive. This song has helped me find some positivity when I’ve been really struggling, I love the chorus when I’m out on a run or a walk in nature, good to remind yourself you are alive and you’ve got this, it is really empowering!
(Fun fact: I worked closely with Sia when she was a newly signed singer many years ago and I was working in the music industry and I have so enjoyed watching her career.)