Wild Water review – gentle film following West Yorkshire’s most daring swimmers | Movies

Here’s a gentle and rather lovely documentary about the community of wild swimmers who dip all year round at Gaddings Dam on the West Yorkshire moors. A beautiful spot, the dam is England’s highest beach – though it’s unlikely to be winning any awards for the sunniest. Not that lashing rain, storm-force winds or thick ice put off the hardy year-round dippers. They’re a jolly bunch – slightly bonkers, which is meant kindly. Most don’t do wetsuits; when the water temperature drops, on go the woolly hats, gloves and booties to protect extremities.

The dam is a mill pond built in the 1830s; about 20 years ago, under threat of being drained, it was rescued by a group of enthusiastic locals. Veteran dipper Clive, now in his late 60s, says he racks up 500 or 600 dips a year. The film’s director Ben Davis interviews other swimmers: among them members of the Saturday Morning Crew and the January Daily Dippers, who swim every day in January to raise money for charity. Some swim for fitness or to connect with nature; others to improve their mental health. One woman started wild swimming to deal with menopause symptoms. They might be hardcore, but the swimmers interviewed here are generous about the fair-weather paddlers who pack out Gaddings come a heatwave. Less tolerant is the pub landlord with the closest car park to the dam; it’s rammed in summertime. “They don’t respect yellow lines,” complains a local.

There’s a homespun, DIY-ish charm to Wild Water, with a plinky plonk score that reminded me of muzak you hear in yoga classes. It will presumably be mostly watched locally – and by wild swimmers around the country. (Outside the north of England, it is screening in Poole, St Ives, Eastbourne, Falmouth and other seaside spots.) Still, what a warm portrait, made with real affection and enthusiasm.

Wild Water is touring UK cinemas from 27 March.

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