“Oh, are we doing wetsuits? I’ve only brought my Speedos,” says Rupert Penry-Jones, turning up with a towel tucked neatly under his arm. And to think I’d been worried we might not get any shots of Penry-Jones with his top off – now I’m faced with the prospect of measuring up in the budgie-smuggler stakes.
We’re meeting at the edge of a lake in Hampshire because Penry-Jones is a committed water baby, a sleek, aquatic athlete who has a wave machine – the swimming version of a treadmill – at his country home so he can keep his stroke ticking over when he’s not splashing about in the great outdoors. He’s part of a growing band devoted to Roger Deakin’s book Waterlog: A Swimmer’s Journey Through Britain, for whom wild swimming is the best way of getting back to nature.
The good news, budgie smuggler-wise, is that the water is a touch cold for anything too skimpy. Luckily, Penry-Jones is very taken with the fancy wetsuits provided by Chris Rees, the manager at Lakeside Country Park, in Eastleigh. Rees is also proposing, for safety’s sake, to paddle alongside us in a kayak. Hang on a minute, you’re thinking; this isn’t all that wild, now is it?