Monday, 20 October 2014

Warm river

My friend Judy swears the Dart gets warmer the nearer you get to its source.  Today I had the opportunity to test this theory, with two swims, one at Spitchwick and one upstream at Sharrah Pool.  It seems she is right, although an experiment on one random day is hardly very scientific.  It was 13.2 at Spitchwick, and 13.7 at Sharrah, a difference of half a degree.   However I'm not sure this as at all conclusive as the swim at Spitchwick was at 9am and the one at Sharrah was six hours later.  At any rate, both swims were beautiful, as we glided around in great swirls of natural foam..   The water is much clearer now too, having been been variously like cocoa, Bovril and tea in the last couple of weeks.

Monday, 13 October 2014

What a difference some rain makes

The Dart has gone from zero to hero - or perhaps the other way round - in a matter of days.  Just over a week ago we swam at Spitchwick; the temperature had plummetted to 11 degrees but the water was still the lowest it's been for a long time.  Within 24 hours, after a night of heavy rain, it was completely unswimmable.  Today, after more rain, it was like boiling Bovril, racing along and overtopping its banks.  As the rain pelted down, we gathered at the big bend at Spitchwick, the only place remotely possible to swim, and created a 'changing room' out of umbrellas; Anna declared that umbrellas are the 'new thing' in winter swimming, and that she's giving up waterproof coats forthwith.  We stood on the edge of the river, up to our ankles on granite slabs that are usually dry, and plunged into the brown water, which immediately froze our fingers.   We hugged the bend as we whooshed round to the next exit, got out, and repeated the exercise.  We all agreed that it wasn't the most pleasant swim ever, but 'honour had been satisfied'.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Round the rugged rocks

We set off to the South Hams coast near Mothecombe, to find a secret cove Anna had told us about.  We followed her instructions, and followed a little path off the main coast path, which did a sharp dog leg and then went down into a cleft between two great sides of rock.  It felt man made, and we concluded it was, as we then followed a vertigo-inducing staircase of ancient carved steps down to a rocky bay.   We swam out into a
 maze of channels, gulleys and islands.   In one inlet we found an iron ring concreted into the rock: perhaps this was a secret mooring spot?   We felt a strong sense of stories of past lives hanging in the sea mist around this particular cove.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

My new toy

14.3 at Sharrah 
I have a new watch which takes the temperature of the water.  (As well as doing all manner of other things: it has a barometer, an altimeter and no doubt will take my inside leg measurement if necessary).   I am fascinated and am fast on my way to becoming a water temperature bore.  This weekend, at Sharrah Pool, the water was 14.3, and in the sea at Bigbury it was 17.9 - no doubt a reflection of our wonderfully warm and dry September. I am particularly looking forward to using the watch as the temperatures go down in the next few months!  I am going to start keeping a "Captain's log" - click on "Water temperatures" at the top right hand side of this page.....

17.9 at Bigbury

Monday, 29 September 2014

The dog's blog

Today my friend Catherine's black labrador Jessie became the first dog to swim around Burgh Island.  Quite historic I think you'll agree.   She started off by trying to herd us all together, and then realised she was on a hiding to nothing, and so kept as close to Catherine as she could.  She was incredibly fast - none of us could keep up - although she did keep getting out onto the rocks for rests.  She would then re-enter the water with a huge leap, making a massive splosh.  After watching her technique underwater  Kari observed that she looked like a 'prancing Icelandic pony'.   Dogs aside, it was the most beautiful swim, in perfect conditions. The sea was flat calm and warm - 17.9 degrees - with fairly good visibility, so we had the perfect pootling circumnavigation, chatting, exploring gullies and pools, watching the shiny brown kelp swaying underneath us, and watching cormorants and seagulls. 

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Queenie's big swim

The SLSC contingent
My friend Queenie throws great parties, so when I heard she was 'throwing' a big swim I was excited.  The concept: a group of swimmers each swimming a section of the 22 miles of the Torbay coastline simultaneously, going all the way from Maidencombe in the north to St Mary's Bay in the south.  Why? No reason, other than it would be a great thing to do.  In true British style, the weather conspired against us, with howling Easterly gales meaning the usually placid waters of the Bay were rolling and rough...but in true British style the show went on.  Fiona and I did the section between Meadfoot and London Bridge - a natural arch.  We got a little bumped getting in but after that we bounced along quite happily, enjoying the feeling that our friends were all - at that very moment - doing the same thing.  It was all a great success - apart from the knickers in the car park incident - about which I will say no more. Afterwards, we all met up to share our adventures and increasingly tall tales about our various feats.  Thank you Queenie, you're a legend!
Passing Corbyn Head
Keeping the show on the road

Fiona at London Bridge

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Mushroom swimming

Penny buns and Chanterelles
Wood Blewitts
 Over the last week my walks to my Dartmoor swimming spots have been getting increasingly slow and meandering, as I keep getting diverted into thickets and under trees by the siren call of the mushrooms.  It seems to be a brilliant year.  Our hotter than average May, June and July, followed by a damper than normal August seems to have created the perfect conditions. In particular, I've found more Penny Buns (aka ceps and porcini) than ever before.  The Chanterelles are looking good, and thanks to Yaara's son Tom, we found the biggest haul of Wood Blewitts ever.  Each swim seems to come with a fungi bonus!

Friday, 29 August 2014

Barbed wire at Burgh

There's barbed wire and a new "Keep Out" sign at the Mermaid Pool at Burgh Island.  We didn't swim there of course. The picture shows the resident mermaid. 

Swimming with buoys

It was an isolated sunny day amidst the downpours and Rachel and I set off for Kelly's Cove near Kingswear.  The hedges were packed with blackberries and sloes, and the sea off Dartmouth was similarly packed with boats, because it's the Regatta. Kelly's Cove is not really a cove, but a series of rocky inlets; you climb or jump in off ledges and it's a great place to explore.  On past swims the water has been gin-clear but today it was a milky green - I guess because of all the rain and wind we've had.  Rachel and I bobbed about and swam round to another little cove where we found a bright orange buoy; we spent some time trying to dislodge another one but it was wedged into a great tightness as they usually are.

Monday, 11 August 2014

A faff of swimmers

Today pre and post swim faffing reached new and quite ridiculous depths.  David and Tamara were down from London, to do the new Pub to Pub Aquathon with Kari and me.  This was supposed to be a swim from the Pilchard pub on Burgh Island to the Sloop at Bantham, across the bay and up the river on the incoming tide, with a short run to the pub at the end.  Cue, before the event, all manner of mind-boggling logistical preparations, involving three cars, clothing, money, and trying to work out where all these three should be and at what time. In the end it all went off brilliantly, er, apart from waiting around for one and a half hours at the end trying to find the person with the key to the car which had all our clothes in....still, in the meantime Kari managed to sweet talk the pub into giving us Pimms on credit.  The swim itself was slightly constrained by Hurricane Bertha, in that the strong winds meant we couldn't start the swim at the Pilchard, and had to set off at the river mouth.  The unexpected bonus was we got a hair-raising ferry ride to the start in the lifeguards' RIB, zooming out over the surf.  Then, once the race started, we were swept up the river in the 'whoosh' of the incoming tide....we sped past the pink boathouse at Jenkins Quay and on up to the thatched harbour master's office where we got out to claps and cheers from onlookers, before puffing up the hill to the finish.  What a great day, and thanks to the organisers Ruth and Patrick.