Rachel, the boys and I set off through the bluebell-adorned woods along the River Yealm, to the mouth of the estuary at Cellars Beach. The plan had been to swim there, but the strong south westerly winds were blowing straight in and it felt a bit too exposed. On the walk out there we'd noticed a wooden fingerpost saying "Kilpatrick Steps" so decided to try swimming there. We followed the path which indeed led to some pretty stone steps where several rowing boats were moored. The steps made the perfect changing place. We waded in, avoiding the moorings, and swam towards the pontoon where a man and a woman were aboard a large red yacht, getting ready to sail down to Plymouth. We exchanged the usual friendly pleasantries on the lines of 'is the water cold?/you must be mad!", before swimming back to shore.
Tuesday, 14 May 2013
Sunday, 12 May 2013
Anna and I set off down the path by the gurgling stream which leads down to Week Ford, picking our way across boulders and trying not to get our feet wet in the boggy bits. This bit of the Moor always makes me think of scenes from A Midsummer Night's Dream, with its small twisted oak trees encrusted with silver lichen and velvety green moss. When we got to our swimming place the river was full, with a heavy current. We waded in and swam upstream, enjoying the softness and the particularly silky quality of the water in this part of the West Dart. The skies were overcast and everything felt soothingly faded and muted. On our way back we found an inscribed pebble that someone had left nestling by the path.
Monday, 29 April 2013
Angie was down at her caravan at Bantham, and invited us down for an afternoon dip. We walked through the clouds of young cow parsley and down to the pink thatched boathouse, where the river was a slim green twist. It was nearly low tide, but the water was still moving down towards the sea at a fairly brisk old pace. There were the usual cries of protest as we plunged in (the sea is taking a long time to warm up this year, to be fair) and it proved pretty impossible to swim against the current up river. We waded and dragged ourselves for a while, and it was wonderful to have visibility again after the murky winter seas; we saw mussels, cockles, and lots of swaying bladderwrack below. Then it was time to turn and be taken by the current, in what is generally known as the "Bantham swoosh". You don't realise how fast you're going until you put your face in and watch the underwater landscape racing along underneath you. We were carried along until we suddenly reached an eddy, where we span around for a while, like children on a merry go round.
Sunday, 14 April 2013
Sometimes you have to be just a little bit cunning when planning a swim. Relentless rainy windy weather has resulted in unattractive seas, and after another spell away from Devon I wanted my homecoming dip to be as perfect as possible. Cue forensic examination of the weather forecast, including intense assessment of wind direction, rain and various webcams, and I concluded Elberry Cove in Torbay would be the best bet. Rachel and I met Jackie, Allan and Geoffrey over there, and were delighted to find brightening skies, and a flat sea with just a gentle swell. The water was its usual special shade of green, as it always is over there, and we flung ourselves in, much to the amusement of various people sitting with their dogs on the beach. As we swam, a gig boat hoved into view, with our friends Queenie and Trista on board, who'd come to say hello.
Thursday, 4 April 2013
Life has conspired to take me away from my beloved Devon a lot lately. Last time I got back I was desperate to get back in the water, and we set off for Prawle Point, in Devon's southernmost parish, where the coastline is raw and rugged. The rock formations are the colour of Dartmoor lichen, and rather gothic, pointing and twisting into the sky like a scene from Lord of the Rings. We climbed down to Elender Cove where I flung myself into the vigorous waves, the perfect restorative tonic. At the same time I was trying out a new swimsuit given to me by the nice people at Simply Swim. It's by Speedo, which I thought just did suits for whippet-thin athletes (unlike myself). But no, they do a 'Sculpture' range suitable for the, ahem, 'fuller figure', ie perfect for me. The suit is comfortable and flattering, and they claim it will last 10 times longer than normal because it's made of a special type of Lycra. I intend to test it to the max!
Monday, 18 March 2013
In Torquay, at Oddicombe, the sun was shining and the sea was blue, flat calm, and very cold: 5.8 degrees C. We set off to explore the Juliet Cave, so-called because you climb up a ledge and into an 'upstairs' cave with pool of white pebbles, with a 'balcony' and 'window' overlooking a channel below. As we approached the mouth of the cave the water swirled up and down the gorgeous, muscular pink and white limestone that is found on this bit of the coast. Some of the swimming party had not visited the cave before and their cries of wonder echoed around the cave, which really is the most magical place. We stood on the balcony, looking down on the slice of churning water below, and wondered whether Romeo might swim up the gulley to see us. Mark then led us a little further along the shore to another cave, with a hole in the ceiling through which he climbed back up into the outside world.
Sunday, 17 March 2013
Sunday, 24 February 2013
I awoke to tiny snowflakes swirling around in a rather aimless fashion. They didn't settle in Ashburton, but when we got to Spitchwick there was a lovely white dusting, a strong contrast to the dark snake of the river running through. It was so cold outside there actually wasn't much of a shock getting in to the water, which Judy's watch said was 1.7 degrees C. As I started to swim, trying to suppress the urge to scream violently, I started to feel the familiar and strange pleasure/pain of a thousand needles attacking my limbs, and then a burning sensation on my skin. I know it sounds mad, but this is actually incredibly invigorating - the perfect way to start the day, especially when rounded off with a tot of my new favourite post-swim tipple, spiced rum. Later we went on a walk to Foggintor Quarry, where I've swum in the past, it was transformed into an ice lake, absolutely beautiful.
Sunday, 17 February 2013
Anstey's Cove is mysterious at the best of times, but when wreathed with fog it is positively eerie. We climbed down over the rocks and got into the beautiful green water; Allan and I swam over to look at a cave which is hidden behind rocks on the other side of the bay. I was in two minds about swimming over as it was some distance and the water felt very cold, but I was driven on by my desire to see the cave. We kept going, passing some divers' floats, though we didn't see the divers. By the time we got there we felt too cold to risk exploring and had to be content with a tantalising glimpse of the cave with its inner pool. I felt anxious swimming back, worried about keeping going against the cold; in the end we were fine but the worry hampered my enjoyment of the swim. A lesson learnt I think.
Monday, 11 February 2013
There is a set of spectacular sea caves in Torquay which the writer Charles Kingsley (author of the Water Babies) described as 'a labyrinth of double and triple caves, like Hindu Temples". In Victorian times, as this etching shows, they were quite well known, but now it seems they are largely forgotten, even though they're just minutes from the main road. We set off in rather murky, unattractive seas, and there was quite a swell. The water rushed in and out of the caves, crashing against the back walls and creating rough swirls and eddies. It was very dramatic but it made it difficult to explore safely although some brave souls ventured in, where they were whirled around before being unceremoniously spat out. As the sun started to set behind the headland, and the sea roared inside the caves, it felt like an amazing place to be. Thanks to Allan and Pauline/James for the pictures.