Roger Deakin

Roger Deakin, who died aged 63 at his home near Eye, was a writer, film-maker, naturalist and campaigner for the countryside.

Roger Deakin, who died on Saturday aged 63, at his home near Eye, was a writer, film-maker, naturalist and campaigner for the countryside.

He had a special love of water and wood - being most noted for an idea that struck him in the summer of 1996 while swimming in the rain in the moat of his ancient farmhouse at Mellis.

He decided to spend a year meditating on life on these islands by plunging into a succession of ponds, pools, lakes and rivers, and dipping into the surrounding sea, for what became the best-selling book Waterlog: A swimmer's journey through Britain.

As he wrote: "When you swim you feel your body for what it is - mostly water - and it begins to move with the water around it. No wonder we feel such sympathy with beached whales: we are beached at birth ourselves."

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Raised in Harrow and educated at Cambridge, he worked in an advertising agency before teaching English at Diss Grammar School and then immersing himself in nature.

Here, he collected old cats and older farm machinery. He often wrote and slept in a mobile, tin-roofed shepherd's hut lit by candles and oil-lamps.

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His celebrations of rural and regional life ranged from Anglia TV films on allotments, Cromer pier and horse-racing at Newmarket to a campaign to preserve public access over common land.

He roved beyond his beloved Suffolk as a founding director of the arts and environmental charity Common Ground. After his researches for Waterlog, he championed pre-war lidos - lobbying MPs for their rescue.

Recently he recorded two poignant programmes for Radio 4 - the first charting sounds of the River Waveney, the second those of his wild garden.

But for years he had been working on a book about wood - his friends fearing that, when he succumbed suddenly to a brain tumour, the project was far from finished. It was almost complete, however. A few days ago his publisher brought him designs for the cover of Wildwood: A Walk through Trees which will be published next year.

Roger Deakin leaves a son, Rufus.

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