Uncommon Ground

OSS Book Review

A bit of a silent partner on the founding of outdoor swimming as the movement we know, love and are part of today, Dominick Tyler’s stunning images formed a big part of Kate Rew’s Wild Swim – the book that for many of us, paddle-and-kickstarted a dormant love of wild water.


Anna’s Review – It’s Fun, It’s Very, Very Beautiful

Dom’s new book, Uncommon Ground, is a region by region meander round the geology, geography, philosophy and folk traditions that shape our language, punctuated by musings, anecdotes and memories.

The format is wonderfully simple: eight regions, a dozen or so features in each, a page of text, an OS reference, and a beautiful photograph.

But the front cover gives you a sense of what belies that simplicity: an invitation to meditate and get a little lost in a moment, in an almost-poetry, spent in each place and feature outlined and explored.

It’s a rich little handbook. Part field guide, part haphazard dictionary. An education in the deliciousness of language and a strong, viscerally joyful reminder that we are lucky to live with such dramatic variations of landforms as those we have in these relatively tiny isles.

I say landforms, but over a third are specifically related to water and waterscape, and beyond that, much of the geology has been shaped by water, its ghost whispering tides across crag and plain. Scotland almost visibly continues to be so – a justification for some ruminations on ice and snow (‘haareis’ is my favourite).

Zawn. Sgeir. Spume. Doake. Dub.

Epilimnion, Sgwd. Wellum. Ait.

Ooze, Saltings. Fleet. Moonglade.

Each new word, a splash across a swimmer’s consciousness. A mindful way of meeting a swim spot. Naming it. Knowing it.

These are words worthy of a shipping forecast. A comfort. An uncanny incantation. A new awareness of place and language through an invocation of the oldest words. A delightful specificity that isn’t hard to roll around the tongue.

a power in understanding our place

There is a power in understanding our place in the context of our land and waterscapes. Applying words to them takes them into and out of our ownership, creates emotional relationships with them, an evaluation of our own being within them, and a sense of our responsibilities and vulnerabilities towards our land in its most physical sense. This book is an important reminder of that.

But moreover, it’s fun, it’s very, very beautiful, and just the right size to be part of that backpack-packable canon that includes Alfred Wainwright and Roger Deakin.

Buy now »