The Story

The paradox of this countryside is that, from the densities of old industrial towns, you may turn a corner or climb a hill, and be in a world that seems pristine, and utterly untouched, like a world before creation

(Glyn Hughes ‘Millstone Grit’, 1975)

Gaddings Dam is a reservoir hidden in the West Yorkshire moors 780 feet above sea level. The bleak but romantic landscape, steeped in the poetry and prose of Ted Hughes and the Brontës, is home to England’s highest beach. The small strip of sand acts as a magnet to a community of swimmers, day-trippers, walkers, bikers and runners.

There is a rhythm as people come and go, having made the twenty-minute trek up a broken footpath, each drawn to the beauty as it changes with the seasons; always the same, always different. Some hardened locals brave the wind, rain and snow to wild swim all seasons for escape, comradeship, to keep the black dog at bay or just for the sheer thrill. As they hit the water, all experience the same visceral hit, taking away everything except the moment. 

Time stops, and peace arrives.  

But there is more to this place than just swimming; a whole ecosystem of activity circulates around the reservoir. There are the volunteers who maintain the footpaths in all weathers, the pub landlord fighting to keep vehicles out of his carpark, the farmer and whose cattle need rescuing, the Gaddings Dam Preservation Society, and the January Daily Dippers.