The Warmth of Wild Swimmers

Wild Woman Blanket 8

When Lynne Roper joined the newly-formed Devon and Cornwall Wild Swimmers in 2011, she was in strong health following her recovery from breast cancer. The next five years overflowed with fun, friendship, and outdoor adventures, as described so vividly in her Wild Woman Swimming diaries: skinny-dips under full moons; sea swims that took Lynne and friends to the limits of their considerable skill and strength; beach picnics where supplies of their favourite lemon gin cake were under constant threat from Lynne’s leggy labradoodle, Honey. But after Lynne’s shock diagnosis with a brain tumour in 2016, the group undertook a quieter endeavour…

‘Our wild swimming group made its first patchwork blankets for Jackie when she got married, and then for Linda when she became seriously ill. We decide on a broad colour scheme and square size, and individuals either crochet, knit, felt or applique squares and add-ons which they post or bring to a bee for stitching together. Yesterday, a few of us met at Castle Drogo to see the Grayson Perry and Louis XIV tapestries currently on display there, and I was given the fabulous blankets made for me by my fish friends afterwards.

My beautiful blanket represents a map of friendships forged through a common love of water and nature. It’s about shared adventures, shared confidences, shared scares, shared perspectives. Some of those who made and sent squares are wild swimmers I’d only ‘met’ online.

There are all kinds of styles, interpretations, and approaches to both crafts and the world stitched in, with flashes of inspiration and unique embellishments abounding. I love them. It’s overwhelming to receive such a gift. My mum was completely overcome when I showed her and spent ages looking at each element.

Kari’s square came attached to a piece of ribbon; she made it from sterling silver and copper. It features the MRI scan of my brain tumour, [Jeremy] Hunt, replete with cerebral oedema. How Grayson is that?’

Extract from Wild Woman Swimming: Castle Drogo, 15 April 2016. Photos of the quilt taken at the book launch at Dartington, September 2018.

Lynne's Quilt at Book Launch

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