July 15, 2022 7 min read
We’ve had the pleasure of knowing Anna since we opened our first ever pop-up shop in 2019, and while it’s not surprising that our paths would cross given her involvement in all things outdoors, it is a bit of a shock that it’s taken this long to make her a brand ambassador!
Anna previously worked in the music industry in London but has more recently swapped rock and roll for life on the Scottish coast working as a photographer and author. Along with her friend Vicky Allan, she has written, Taking the Plunge - The Healing Power of Wild Swimming for Mind, Body and Soul, For the love of Trees and The Art of Wild Swimming – Scotland (plus an England and Wales version for those not fortunate enough to live in Scotland).
When you meet Anna, her passion for getting outdoors shines through and it’s easy to see how she has built up a thriving wild swimming community. Much like ourselves Anna is also dedicated to looking after the environment that she loves and is involved in various conservation efforts. We are delighted to have her onboard as an ambassador and excited to start sharing more adventures together!
In your previous career in London you worked in the music industry. What drew you to Scotland to embrace a lifestyle of wild swimming, photography and serial authorship?
I spent my happiest childhood times in the Cairngorms and have always had family there so it really has always been a home from home for me. I moved from my family home in the Cairngorms to London when I was 19 to seek out the bright lights and I loved working in the music industry through the late 90s and 2000’s. It was a wild and fun time and really hard work, but I always loved coming home to my family for long weekends and holidays, seeking out wild places and being outdoors. It was always such a contrast. I moved back to Scotland 6 years ago to be closer to my family and now I feel finally settled after 20 years in the big smoke. I love living near the sea and being able to escape into the woods so easily and to show my children all my favourite spots.
A key theme throughout your books is a love of the outdoors. Is this something that’s always been there for you or is it something that’s developed through moving to Scotland?
I have always loved the outdoors, when I was growing up we just loved roaming about outdoors, catching minnows in the stream, building dens, having adventures, climbing trees and that love has never gone away. I absolutely love spotting wildlife and going for epic walks, usually accompanied by a dip somewhere lovely. I feel energised by being outdoors, immersing myself in nature and the wild.
You’ve written so many fantastic books - For the Love of Trees/Taking the Plunge/Wild Swimming Scotland/England/Wild Guide Balearic Islands - What made you want to first start writing and how do you come up with the ideas?
I was doing a photographic project taking portraits of wild swimmers who I swam with in 2018 and a client of mine suggested I meet her friend Vicky Allan who is a journalist and also loved swimming and nature, she even suggested we did a book together. We met and within a year our first book Taking The Plunge was on the shelves, now we have written 5 books together (our most recent just handed in) and working on number 6!
I’ve always loved writing but it’s the research that’s my forte, I love finding the people and coming up with concepts for books, our books are always centred around people talking about their environment be it water or trees etc... At the same time we were commissioned to write Taking The Plunge my sister Lizzie and I had been chatting about writing a travel book for Mallorca (she lives there) and we pitched it to Wild Things Publishing as we love the Wild Guide to Scotland and Bothy Bible, and amazingly they said yes. I’ve also written quite a few articles for the Guardian travel and features and other publications like The Scotsman, The Independent etc. But Vicky is the writer of our books together and she is a huge talent, we work so well collaboratively.
You talk a lot about conservation in your books and we know you're actively involved in beach cleans and fundraising. Can you tell us more about your passion for this and the good work you do?
I wish I could do more as I feel we are in a state of crisis environmentally, but I do what I can within the time I have. I often beach clean at our local beach Wardie Bay and have enjoyed organising fundraising events raising money for local women’s charities and our local hospice. A group from our local swim community have been petitioning to make Wardie have bathing water status which would be amazing, so far SEPA have turned us down but are now testing the site weekly and reporting the findings, which I’m pleased to say are very positive so far. As a family we are trying really hard to avoid single use plastic but it is super hard, especially when you are busy so that is a work in progress, when you swim amongst the plastic that has been in our oceans sometimes for decades you really want to stop being a part of the problem.
You're clearly passionate about Wild Swimming, the outdoors and travel. What other passions do you have that we might not know about?
I’m a total book worm and I also love a Netflix drama binge. I love long walks with my camera or my dog and listening to podcasts.
Your latest book is a Wild Guide for the Balearic Islands. What was the inspiration behind choosing this location?
My sister Lizzie has lived in Mallorca for over 20 years, raising her boys there and living off grid in a little finca in the mountains, she really is a totally wild child. She now runs a stable that rescues horses and takes people on rides in the mountains, along beaches (with the horses swimming while you ride bareback), camping out in hammocks up mountains and sleeping under the stars. She has so many people asking her how to find a wild beach and thought it would be amazing to write a guide to the Balearic islands wild places in Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera. There are so many beach resorts but they are just concentrated in certain areas and all the islands are riddled with forests, caves, wild beaches, beautiful wildlife, stunning swim locations, secret coves, beautiful fincas etc…
It took us 3 years to write and obviously covid make things very tricky in the middle of the book project, especially when I caught covid 2 days before a research trip. I loved exploring the islands, hiking for days, finding new places and most of all spending time with my sister but I’m not sure I’ll ever write another travel guide, they are such hard work!
We’ve heard lots about wild swimming being great for mental health. Is that something you believe and is it important for your own mental health?
It certainly helps me enormously and from what I’ve heard from so many others it does the same for them, the scientific research also confirms it can help with depression. I find it helps my anxiety as I feel utterly overwhelmed by the cold water which sort of puts my busy mind into survival mode and I feel a pure focus and calm. I’ve heard so many stories of cold water swimming helping with pain, grief, ptsd, anxiety, depression, stress and much more. We talk quite extensively about this in our books, particularly Taking The Plunge which really explores the healing power of the water.
What would you say to people who are wanting to start wild swimming but haven’t yet taken the plunge?
Just go for it! This is the best time of year to start. You don’t need loads of kit, start with none and build up rather than getting all kitted up and realising you don’t actually want or need it all. Find a swim group so you can swim with others, or just find out some solid local knowledge of your chosen swim spot, being aware of tides, hazards etc is vital.
What’s next for Anna Deacon? Do you have a bucket list of things you would love to achieve?
My travel bucket list used to be so long, but really these last couple of years I’ve just become more and more keen to explore Scotland and the UK. There are so many places I’ve yet to visit, I’m keen to visit more of the Outer Hebridean islands, Snowdonia, Cornwall etc. I also want to return to Shetland, I’ve been before in my teens but my family were from Unst originally and I haven’t been there, I’m keen to see where they lived. My Great, great Grandfather was a photographer when it was a very new thing, and he was the first photographer on Shetland, the museum there has lots of his images in the archive. I want to visit some of the places he photographed and lived.
I have a new idea for a photographic portrait series that I’m hoping to start soon, inspired by nature and I’m working on a couple of new books too.
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