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Wild Water

Gaddings Dam holds a very special place in our hearts and Swim Feral almost certainly wouldn't exist without it. Wild Water is a new documentary based around the West Yorkshire Dam directed by regular dipper Ben Davis for Paper Vision Films. And it would have been a challenge for him to make the film without us being part of it! It is currently in the last stages of filming and on track to be finished by the end of the year. They hope to show it at film festivals followed by worldwide distribution via streaming services – we can't wait to watch it! 

What drives somebody to swim in a freezing reservoir, and what do they find on the other side? ‘Wild Water’ tracks the people and the landscape as they use the restorative powers of cold water to reconnect with their mental health, identity, nature and each other. The project will be a documentary film with Yorkshire’s Gaddings Dam providing the backdrop to people’s lives and the story of their community.

Gaddings Dam at sunset with water in the forefront and small silhouettes of swimmers in the water

The former mill reservoir is hidden in the West Yorkshire moors 780 feet above sea level. The bleak but romantic landscape, steeped in the poetry and prose of Ted Hughes and the Brontës, is home to ‘the highest beach in England’. The small strip of sand acts as a magnet to a community of swimmers, day-trippers, walkers, bikers and runners.

There is a buzz of activity as people come and go, making the twenty-minute trek up a broken footpath or from over the moors, each drawn to the beauty as it changes with the seasons; always the same, always different.

Some hardened locals brave the wind, rain and snow to wild swim in all weathers for escape, comradeship, to keep the black dog at bay or just the sheer thrill. They all experience the same visceral hit as they hit the water, taking away everything except the moment.

Time stops, peace arrives.

Wild Water focuses on some of the characters who use cold water to manage their mental health and hear the stories that led them there.


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