Monday, 30 January 2012

The battle of Berry Head

Berry Head is tremendous natural look-out. There are the remains of a Napoleonic fort there. The cliffs around are craggy and really quite high, as we found when we tried to get down and swim in the tempting petrol-blue sea below. There were vertiginous drops, and in the end we walked down past the old quarry to where people fish. We changed and climbed down a much smaller drop, plunging into the gently swelling water. Swimming along we spotted a cave which, it turned out, was actually an archway. There were many fissures in the rocks and the noise of the sea was very strange indeed as it echoed through them; it sounded as though it was growling. Perhaps there really are sea monsters who make their homes in hidden caverns.

(Nearly) 99 red balloons

In honour of a trio of birthdays - Kari, Steph and Clare - a madcap plan was hatched to swim around Burgh Island in truly celebratory style, each swimmer attached to a red balloon. As we arrived we could see an excited group below the Pilchard Inn, some already clutching balloons, while Jonathan manhandled a helium cylinder, filling the rest. The sea was flat calm and gorgeous, with the sun rippling across it. There must have been about twenty of us who swam round; it was sheer pleasure all the way. Some of the highlights; being able to swim in and out of the maze of gullies at the back of the island; marvelling at the pink and purple rocks and seaweed below us; the silhouettes of the cormorants and gulls; the incredible visibility of the water; and the sky turning pink as we swam.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Hangover cure at Hope

Because I'm always after still waters for swimming and exploring, I sometimes forget what fun a few big waves can be. Today we had a spectacular walk at Bolt Tail, a massive lump of a headland which juts out into the sea with enormous views all down the coast. On the way back I stopped for a swim at Hope Cove, where the surf was rocking. Walking into the sea I was pushed and pulled by the force of the water, before being wiped out by a particularly big wave. I then started to go head-first into each roller. What a blast! I spent quite some time playing like this before getting my bodyboard and doing a bit of surfing.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Rolling in the deep

Meldon Quarry is a grand statement of a place. A viaduct floats above you, and great hunks of rock are everywhere. The quarry lake is tucked away, and there were many intakes of breath when we first saw the water, a green expanse through a network of branches. The water was cold; seven degrees to be precise; hardly a surprise at this time of year...but being in it deliciously enforced the feeling of winter. We swam over to a beautiful, angular cliff which hangs precariously over the water. We felt very small staring up at its edgy presence. Apparently the kids like to jump off it in the summer - not quite sure from where. All I could manage was a very tame lurch from a rock I managed to find protruding at the bottom.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Squirts, sponges and stuff

Having been stuck in the grime of London all weekend, it seemed appropriate to swim at London Bridge - in Torquay. This amazing arch is always alluring, but today turned out to be particularly extraordinary. We swam at low water, and it was a very low tide indeed because we're on Spring tides at the moment. There is a cave by the arch, which today was revealed from underneath the arch itself; before, when I've gone at high water, you can only get to the cave around the lump of rock at the back. As we swam in we could see two sources of light: two entrances, with beautiful clear turquoise water lapping between. I then noticed bright white squashy things everywhere; they looked a bit like teeth, or as Anna more poetically put it, like candle wax dripping from the cave walls. Under the water though, they opened out like anenomes. I have now - thanks to a brilliant Torbay dive site - discovered they are called dead men's fingers. We also saw some rather necrotic looking sea sponges - brown masses stuck on the rock faces, occasionally spitting water at us. All this magical marine wildlife is, I think, normally hidden from swimmers, as we don't go down deep enough. Today, thanks to the spring tides, we were allowed a privileged look into their secret world. Watch the video....
video

Monday, 2 January 2012

Happy at Hope

It's the third year we've done a New Year's swim at Hope Cove, and we see no reason to change what is now a tradition. Who can argue with a glorious 'expedition' of a swim, between Outer and Inner Hope (two adjoining bays), Morris Men, and a cosy pub with people singing sea shanties (oh and copious amounts of warming mulled wine). The sea was rough, and as we swam past the Shippen - a bulging rocky outcrop between the two beaches - I thought of the many ships that have been wrecked there in the past...including one of the Spanish Armada in 1588. Afterwards, we crowded into the pub to shelter from the driving rain. What a way to welcome in the New Year - in the sea, with friends.