Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Victory for the Dart Divas!

A duo of Divas, nearly caught inflagrante
Picture Pam Barrett
It was the inaugural Buckfastleigh Ice Gala.  Swimmers from all over Devon and as far away as London descended on the town's lovely pool for various races, fancy dress fun and jacket potatoes.  Far from being icy, the water was relatively warm at 8.6 degrees. Rachel, Yaara, Judy and I entered for a laugh, calling ourselves the Dart Divas, on account of our regular weekly swim at Spitchwick.   We decided to go for the glam look, attiring ourselves in black and white swimsuits, strings of pearls and a lot of lippy (Rachel went the extra mile, accessorising her outfit with a feather boa and a long cigarette holder).   To our utter amazement we won  our relay race, thrashing not only the Heavitree Swimmers, NAC Borneo 3 (whoever they were), but the much feared Stoke Screamers. And then, to cap that, we won first prize for fancy dress.  All too fabulous for words

The Greatly Feared Stoke Screamers
Picture Pam Barrett
The Dart Divas
Picture Pam Barrett

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Double trouble

Last Sunday I swam twice. First, in our regular Sunday morning dip at Spitchwick on the River Dart where it was a very fresh 5 degrees.  Then, as it was such a beautiful day  I decided to go and join Carl and Kate  in Brixham, for their afternoon swim at Breakwater Beach.   The water was flat calm, and there was a gorgeous pinkish late afternoon light.   The water was so much more forgiving than the river had been earlier. I checked my watch.  10 degrees - twice as warm as the Dart!  Warm enough even for a spot of jumping and diving!

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Happy wet year

I am hoping 2016 does not carry on as it's started.  It's been incessantly wet and wild.  Out on Dartmoor today the roads were like rivers, and the rivers were like, well torrents.   We went to Spitchwick for our usual Sunday morning swim to find the Dart swollen and brown, and higher than we've ever seen it.  It was flooding over the granite blocks at the edge where we normally get in, and there were white horses skipping along the surface.   We got in at the edge and had great fun getting swirled around in the loop.  A couple of days before that we'd had our traditional New Year's Day swim at Hope Cove, where it was also wet and wild, but an extremely cheery spirit prevailed.
Picture: Carole Whelan

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Perambulating Plymouth Sound

Plymouth Sound is the most beautiful natural harbour and yet I rarely visit, I suppose because it's not on my doorstep.  However it's not far away, and a group of us set off one surprisingly sunny November Sunday for what turned out to be a fascinating walk and couple of swims into the city's naval (and other) history.   We set off from Jennycliff, and the first stop was Batten Bay, a gorgeous little beach with numerous rocky channels and inlets and great views over to Drake's Island.  The water was clear and still and blue.  A vast warehouse looms up behind the beach, but only adds to the unusual maritime/urban setting.  We then walked on around the Mountbatten Peninsula which is like a little island protruding into the Sound.  We walked past the foot ferry, and through boatyards, looking across to Tinside, home of the famous pool, on the other side.  We walked through the old village of Turnchapel, and past the old Royal Marines base.  We ended up at Hooe Lake, a tidal inlet where we had another peaceful swim out to a couple of boats moored in the middle.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Seek and ye shall find

I spend a lot of time dreaming about swims, but also looking longingly at the OS map trying to find new places.  For some time I've been curious about a waterfall at the very northern end of Slapton Sands but never got around to checking it out (partly put off by the long walk).  Finally, on a dreary autumnal day, Alex and I set off to find it.  The environment down there is bleakly beautiful.  Sea and shingle stretch for miles, unusual, silver-green plants grow, and the cliff - aptly named The Slide - rises starkly behind.  As we started on the long trudge to the end we saw a flock of goldfinches feeding on swaying seed heads. Finally, we reached the end, but no sign of the waterfall.  Alex stopped for a vape break, but I kept on going, and then heard the sound of rushing water.   There, hidden in the rocks, was a twenty foot waterfall pouring down from the cliff above, into a small pool, like a mystical crucible.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Indian summer

As it turned out, it was the last day of the Indian Summer.  The date was November 2nd, and our lovely friend Charlotte (one of the Scottish Swimming Lassies) was visiting.  Talk about the weather behaving in her honour. We arrived at Cellars Beach, Noss Mayo, to find sparkling clear sea, and I think you'll agree the pictures (taken by Charlotte)  look just like summer.   We got in the water,  swam around the rocks and made our way up the estuary, weaving in and out of channels and marvelling at the clarity of the water.  Anna spotted a starfish, well camouflaged and clinging to a cleft in the rock.  Numerous little white winkles sparkled like fairy lights underwater.  The dogs had a rather hazardous time keeping up with us from the shore, slipping over the ledges and making inelegant jumps.  In all we stayed in about half an hour;  the sea was warm and it just didn't feel like November .

Monday, 9 November 2015

Swimming in the suburbs

Just because a beach is in the middle of a conurbation doesn't mean it's not wild.  Anna, Ellie and I set off for Armchair Cove in Paignton, which you can get to via a suburban street and a short walk past a holiday camp and under the railway line. You emerge into a green and blue heaven, a grassy cliff top with the sea spread out in front of you like a magic blue carpet. Armchair Cove is tucked away under the cliff, a small oasis of calm fringed with exotic, Gaudi-esque rock formations.  The water was very clear for the time of year, and warm, at 14.7, and we swam around, heads permanently down, marvelling at the beautifully coloured seaweeds and intricately twisted rocks.  Then there was a shout. "Green anemones" cried Anna, and there they were, snakelocks anemones rippling in the water, green ones and pink ones, surrounded by a kaleidoscope of pinks, purples, browns and greens.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Silly at Shilley

Shilley Pool, near South Zeal, is the perfect aquatic playground.  It comes complete with a huge water slide, and an infinity effect, all set in a very pretty corner of Dartmoor.  We walked there via the scenic route, which involved a lot of climbing uphill, and also some unnecessary climbing uphill due to, ahem, a map reading malfunction.  However it was all worth it for the views, and for an absolutely magnificent triple stone row which we went to see before descending to the pool for a well-earned plunge.   Thanks to Ron for the water spouting photo!

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Back in the swim

Winter swimming has a rhythm that summer swimming doesn't. The summer is full of events, there's no routine.  I love it,  the weather is (relatively speaking) good, and you're out there all the time. In winter, it's tougher but there's more ritual and more regularity.  Every Sunday morning throughout the year a group of us meet to swim in the Dart, and today I got back into that routine.   The season has changed, and it's much colder, so there was the paraphernalia of boots, gloves, warm clothes for afterwards, hip flask etc, to consider.  There was the ritual bankside speculation about the temperature of the water, the ritual noises on entry, the ritual commentary on the nature of the cold.  Although it was undeniably cold, at 9.9 degrees, we had a beautiful swim and stayed in for about quarter of an hour.  There was a delicious purity about the water which set me up perfectly for the day.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Ooh er Reverend

I've always been fascinated by the Parson and Clerk rocks at the northern end of Teignmouth beach.  The name, their position, the arch which cries 'swim through me' and the mystery of what is on the other side, all conspire to draw me towards them.  So it was unfortunate that the day we wanted to swim to them (and through them) there were Easterly winds, meaning the sea was choppy and brown.   Still, I was determined to give it a go, and the lovely Martin came too.  Although the sea looked a little daunting from the shore, in fact once we were in, it felt fine, it was just incessantly bouncy with waves coming at us constantly. We ploughed on and eventually reached the gap through the Parson, where we were swirled around like clothes in a washing machine.   It was exhilarating, though I am looking forward to going back on a day when there is flat calm and crystal clear sea.  Here's a short video.