Sunday, 22 February 2015

Traces of history

Anna and I set off along the coast path, hoping to swim at Bugle Hole, but the swell was rather daunting so we decided not to risk it.  We returned to the main beach at Mothecombe where we were both a little nervous about getting in, having just returned from the balmy waters of the Red Sea.   We dodged the rollers as we gradually submerged, and then headed over to the ruined tidal pool that we'd spotted from the cliff path above.   As we explored it, overshadowed by the old WW2 pill box, it occurred to me that we were swimming in an interesting archeological site.  The beach and the local area are part of the Flete Estate.  The estate's website explains that the pool was built in 1875, but that unfortunately the Home Guard blew a hole in it before they left at the end of the war.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

An English rainforest

I have long been curious about the waterfalls at Colly Brook, so got in touch with Wildwomanswimming who knows that neck of the woods around Tavistock really well.  Naturally she offered to show me. The anticipation built as we approached, because we could hear the frantic rush of the brook before we saw it,.  When it finally came into view it was stunning. Ferns and luxuriant green mosses were everywhere, with white water foaming down a series of waterfalls, steps, holes, pools and jacuzzis.  There was an exhilarating sense of buzzing energy, of ozone filling the air.   We climbed up to the top to admire all the waterfalls, before coming back down and picking our pool, where we plunged and and got a pummelling in the deep area around the bottom of the waterfall.    A veritable natural spa.

Monday, 5 January 2015

What a difference a degree or two makes

The Dart is well known for being a flashy river - up and down like a tart's drawers as someone remarked.  When we arrived for our regular Sunday dip there was a tide mark of twigs on the grass, showing that the river must have been really high in the last day or so.   When we got in it felt distinctly warmer than our last swim a week before.  For a start, I didn't have the feeling of millions of tiny daggers pricking my legs as I took the plunge, which I've had the last couple of times we've swam.  It turned out to be nearly three  degrees warmer - 7.7 - which made a big difference.

Into the Juliet Cave

It was grey and wet, a not very inspiring day for a swim, but Anne had suggested a dip at Oddicombe, Torquay.  When we got there the sea was flat and the sun was trying to break through...though it was still drizzling.  We changed under the shelter of the boarded-up cafe, and walked down to the water, where the shingle shelved sharply as we got in.  The sea was lovely, not too cold and we bobbed about for a bit before heading to the northern end of the beach to look at the old Gentlemen's Bathing Place and the Juliet Cave.  The latter is so-called because you can climb into an 'upstairs' which has a 'balcony' overlooking the sea below.  It was very dark inside but a great thrill to get in and look down, like Juliet, from above. I did a little video which you can see below.  I decided to walk back along the beach as I was finding it very difficult to swim as I was wearing a wetsuit, and on the way noticed the perfect little natural footbath - it even had indentations around it for 'seats'.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Hello 2015

For several years now we've been 'swimming in the New Year" at Hope Cove, and it just gets better and better (though it has to be said the weather hasn't improved over the years).  It's become a tradition, and has led to precious friendships, because we've all got to know each other so well, swimming together not just at Hope Cove but in many other places. This year, after watching the Morris Men, who, like us, always meet at 12 noon in the village, we braved the wind and the rain to swim from Inner Hope.  A lady who saw us getting changed was inspired to join in, and stripped off to her undies and took the plunge. The final total in the water was 21 swimmers, 2 dogs and 2 seals.

Monday, 29 December 2014

The pink passage

Bugle Hole is one of my favourite places to swim (though it has to be admitted there are many).  Just along the coast path from Mothecombe, it is a keyhole-shaped inlet that fills up at high water to make a perfect natural swimming pool.  Today I visited at low water - when it becomes a location worthy of the adventures of the Famous Five, complete with caves, smugglers passages and treasure.  I climbed down perilously slippery rocks, while my two boys sat in the sun and read books and played on their devices. Once down in the 'hole' I did a bit of cowrie-hunting, and found three of the little pearl-like shells, before getting changed into my swimmers and heading off to explore what I call the Pink Passage.  It's a secret tunnel from the inlet through to the sea outside, and I imagine could well have been used by smugglers.  Walking through I was hit by a succession of sensations of colour and sound, the pink, green, purple and white of the rocks, and the water constantly gurgling, groaning and booming.   Once through I swam through a dark green channel of water and out into a more open area of sea before swimming back into the Hole through another passageway through the rocks.   Watch "Pink Passage: the Movie" below!

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Festive swims

Swimming in devilishly cold water is the perfect antidote to all the slobbing, sitting and scoffing that goes on at this time of year.  On Christmas morning we met early on the banks of the Dart for a bracing plunge, adorned in Santa hats and tinsel, before heading back to our various families and festive traditions.  Then on Boxing Day, Anna, Yaara and I had a dimpsy dip in the pouring rain.  Today, there was frost on the ground and ice in the puddles as we met again at Spitchwick.  As I stood in the water preparing to immerse it felt as though a thousand tiny daggers were plunging into my legs.   The water was a perishing 5.1 degrees by my watch - but 3.8 by Judy's.  "Why do you do it?" I hear you ask.  Well it's a bit of a cliche, but like most cliches it's true:there is something so invigorating and revitalising about the cold restores you to your factory settings.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Solstice swimming and hangover cures

We have an emerging tradition which involves a carol singing party on the Saturday before Christmas - known as "Carols and Carousing" followed by a swim at Sugary Cove in Dartmouth  the following day.  Also part of the tradition is Queenie and Kate missing the party, but managing to get to the swim.  Last year they got the wrong day, this year, Kate felt lousy; we're already speculating what next year's excuse will be.  Still, they made it to Sugary Cove, where it was generally agreed that this was the perfect way to cure the hangovers and celebrate the shortest day of the year - or rather, the start of days getting longer.  In fact it turned out to be a day of double dipping, as Rachel and I also went in the Dart earlier, where it was a chilly 8 degrees.  The swim was enlivened by a naturist who joined in, and did some bracing stretches on the bank into the bargain.  At Sugary Cove the sea was three and a half degrees warmer, and we had a glorious swim through the channel to Castle Cove, before scoffing Queenie's delicious home-made mince pies, still warm, on the beach afterwards.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Scottish sojurn

I've just returned from a magical weekend with our friends the Scottish Swimming Lassies and Lads, in which we sailed the seas and swam with starfish.  Anna, Yaara and I flew to Glasgow and then drove up past Loch Lomond,  Loch Fyne, and finally Loch Sween, before finally arriving at Carsaig Bay, on the Sound of Jura.  It was dark when we got there but we couldn't resist a night-time dip off the jetty in front of Charlotte and Duggie's house, before settling down to a hearty dinner and chats in front of the wood-burning stove.  The following morning it was so exciting to wake up and see the mountains of Jura across the sea.  Iona arrived and we went down to the jetty where we got into Sea Pie, a little dinghy, to row out to Wild Rose, Duggie's absolutely beautiful yacht.  He built her himself over five summers and we felt so privileged to be allowed on board.  We couldn't wait to explore, and were particularly delighted to find a cosy fire burning in the cabin below.   Frequent cries of "this is the life" were heard (and in fact were heard throughout the entire weekend) as we sailed out of the Bay, and headed south past an island and down towards a very craggy part of the coast that Charlotte and Duggie call "Raven's Nest".  We leapt off the boat (or rather, inelegantly lowered ourselves down the ladder) and into the beautiful dark green water for a delicious swim amongst the kelp gardens, with lots of wrasse darting about below us.  Duggie was an absolute gentleman and after his swim came back with Sea Pie to collect us, so we didn't have to haul ourselves up the ladder back on board.  The next adventure was the hot tub on the shore - another of Duggie's brilliant creations.
 As dusk fell we decadently wallowed in the tub while drinking wine and nibbling cashews, occasionally punctuating the indulgence with a shock-inducing sea-dip.  Sunday dawned sunny, and so followed another unforgettable day.  We met Iona again, and also Martin and Fraser, at Danna, at the mouth of Loch Sween, where the water was unbelievably clear and we saw starfish.  In the afternoon we again went out in Wild Rose, sailing north this time into the Sound, where we spotted George Orwell's house on Jura, and all had a go at the helm.  On the way back we had a swim in a channel near Carsaig Island, where we spotted two seals.  They came into the water but did not approach us, which for me was an enormous relief as I find the Devon seals way too friendly.   As we started back towards home a most vivid sunset started to take place over the Paps of Jura.   We put down the anchor and watched the sun set and the moon rise, and Duggie and Yaara had a swim in the twilight.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Feeling the love

Swimming seems to create such a bond.   It brings together people of different ages, beliefs, sizes and outlooks.   And yet they seem to share an indefinable something: a lust for life, a joy in the water, a spirit of adventure, a sense of humour, and a love of cake.  Today was a day when all that joy came together.  It started back in May, when Jackie got married to Gordon, her partner of twenty years.  Lesley had the brilliant idea of making her a wedding present from all her swimming friends.  We all knitted squares, and some really creative people made beautiful applique'd ones.  Several months and several meet-ups to sew them all together later,  we ended up with a blanket and a wall hanging. All that remained was to jump out, Jeremy Beadle like, when she went for a dip at her favourite swimming spot, Torre Abbey Sands in Torquay.  Well as you can imagine she was totally overcome as were most of us.  It felt just as good to be giving as receiving.  We then went for a mass dip - I lost count of the heads when I reached 25 - followed by a slap-up lunch.