Wednesday, 31 August 2011

A trip to Tinside

I can't believe I've lived in Devon all this time and never visited Tinside Lido in Plymouth. It is spectacular in its Deco elegance and its sheer scale. On a rocky outcrop projecting into the Sound, it feels like being on an ocean liner. It's a glorious place to swim and a wonderful place to spend the afternoon. With its sunbathing terraces, there is something for everyone. And this year, entry is free. (it's probably the first and last year it will be free). All along the foreshore near the Lido are the remains of concrete steps and smaller tidal pools; the fact that most of them have gone to rack and ruin, and some have been blocked off by the council, is very sad.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Laps through the Lakes

Ok, it's not Devon, but I just have to share the joys of my recent trip to the Lake District. Number one highlight: Tongue Pot near the Roman Castle of Hardknott, and also various pools around it. Picture the scene: crystal clear waters over pale pebbles, framed by waterfalls; an enchanted atmosphere, it felt as though we were bathing in a secret fairy place. The visibility underwater was amazing. (I know I'm waxing rather lyrical but it really was very romantic). A total contrast was Small Water - which Wainwright says is Lakeland's most beautiful tarn - in the gloom and rain. Here I felt a glorious isolation in murky depths. And finally Coniston - serene and silky. We swam off a stark wooden jetty and picnicked on a promontory overlooking Wildcat Island. Needless to say I am now re-reading Swallows and Amazons and am loving every word.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Brilliant Burgh

The annual Burgh Island Race is totally wonderful, organised by the hotel simply for the fun of it. They generously lay everything on for free for the participants, including a scrumptious barbeque afterwards. This year we had a lovely sunny evening, although there was a strong wind and swell. The chatelaine of the hotel, Deborah, oversaw the start of the race from the sea tractor (as you do), and the first part of the swim was tough going. We had to put our heads down and plough into the head wind and chop. Once we'd got round the back of the island though, the wind was a help, not a hindrance. Huge thanks to the Burgh Island Hotel for such a fabulous event.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Swimming in the mire

A mire may not be all it seems, particularly on Dartmoor. We tramped through the damp and drizzle, heading towards the blue spot - Leftlake Mire - that we'd identified on the map. Far from being an unpleasant sticky bog, it was beautiful. A vast pool, rather dark and desolate and cold. We swam across the great expanse, and looked back to see an arch silhouetted against the sky; quarrying used to go on here. We then attempted a bit of, er, synchronised swimming; an experience bizarrely enhanced by the appearance of our limbs in the water; it looked as though we'd all been a bit overenthusiastic with the fake tan.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Swimming the ruins

Hallsands is a ruined village right down near Start Point; it was swept away after shingle was dredged along the coast nearby to build the dockyard in Plymouth. All that remains is the shells of the buildings. It isn't accessible by foot, so we swam there. It was beautiful. The sea was clear and calm; we swam along from North Hallsands and soon the ruins were looming above us, on a great platform of rock. It must have been a tough old life living there and it was a moving experience looking up at the buildings. There is some wonderful old film of the last inhabitants by British Pathe which you can see online here.