Monday, 31 July 2017

Finding new territory

Since Felix died I find it helps to find new places to go.  All the old places are full of memories of him, and it's good to visit them, but not all the time.  About two weeks after he died Alex and I went for a walk along the coast path west of Heybrook Bay, a stretch we hadn't walked before, and found a stunning lagoon.  It was the period in between Felix's death and his funeral,  a surreal and unreal time.  The magic of swimming in that lagoon was a moment of sanity in a miasma of madness.  I've had the urge to go back there many times since.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Visiting the dawn

Watching the sun rise is both magical and therapeutic.  You are drenched in beauty, and the inevitability of the sun rising and setting every day, whatever happens in our little lives, somehow puts things in perspective.  A couple of months ago I got up early to watch the sun rise on Dartmoor; it's something I've been doing on the anniversary of my mother's death for a few years, and now of course I've lost Felix it is even more important I do it, as a little act of remembrance and worship. Then a few weeks ago I went for an early morning swim with Amanda in Torquay (ok it wasn't dawn, we were a bit too tired for that) but there was such a sense of serenity out there, it was quiet and otherworldly and the sea held us in its gentle grasp.

Monday, 3 July 2017

The balm of the Dart

The River Dart upstream of Ashburton is so well known to me now it is like an old friend, and old friends provide comfort. During the last three months  I have been compelled more than ever to swim in its silky clear water, sit in its cascades and explore its beautiful rocky depths.  The Dart estuary, below Totnes,  I know less well.   It is a different personality, though of course related to its cousin upstream.   It slips in serpentine langour through the folding fields of the South Hams, gradually widening and becoming more saline as it gets to Dartmouth and the sea.   And now of course this bit of the Dart has even more relevance to me, as Felix is buried in Sharpham Meadow, one of those fields above the estuary.   When I visit his grave I often now go down to the river afterwards and swim below the meadow,  looking up at where he lies.

Friday, 12 May 2017


Swimming is a  way of losing yourself in the vastness of the landscape.  On Sunday I swam at Slapton where everything is enormous - the sky is huge, the sea stretches as far as the eye can see and the shingle is an endless line.   It's a very abstract place, in three colours, three stripes ahead of blue, dark blue and brown, the sky, the sea and the shingle.  The water was clear and I let it move me up and down the shore.  Then I floated and looked up at the sky.  It's that Hardy-esque feeling of being microscopic in the immensity of the world, and it's a feeling I crave at the moment, perhaps to try and make my loss less.  In the last few days I've been in Snowdonia where I climbed a large part of Cadair Idris in a quest to reach a glacial lake called Llyn y Gadair which lies in a bowl under the towering cliffs of the mountain.  It was breathtaking, and I felt a sense of relief on getting there and plunging myself into its icy waters.  

Friday, 5 May 2017

Why I've been silent

At Leftlake, Dartmoor
On March 9th my darling, beautiful son Felix died, aged 20.  He had epilepsy and his death has been put down to SUDEP - Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy, something which is little understood.    His death has been like an earthquake through our family and although I have found swimming helpful in the aftermath I have not had any desire to blog about it.  Since March 9th everything in my life has been, and will continue to be, refracted through the prism of his death.  I will certainly blog about wild swimming again but my posts will probably, for some time at least, be preoccupied with swimming and how it aids the grieving process.  I have been trying to get in the water as often as possible and it definitely helps.  You can find out more about Felix and donate to SUDEP Action here.

By the River Dart

In Greece (Felix was never a fan of cold water!)

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Up the creek

Judy has just moved, albeit temporarily, to Tuckenhay, a gorgeous village nestling by Bow Creek, off the Dart estuary, so it seemed only right to go and test out the water.   We walked along the bank admiring the elegant Jane Austen style houses on the hill on the other side, everything in muted February tones:  greys, browns and dull greens.   The water seemed to be heading out fast but when we got in there was actually not a very strong current (apart from in the middle) and we enjoyed swimming upstream and then floating back down.   The friendly curves of the hillsides down to the creek created a sort of secure feeling as we bobbed around in the middle.   It was chilly, at 8 degrees, though warmer than the Dart further upstream, on Dartmoor.  Afterwards Anna tested out her new rucksack, inherited from her father, which ingeniously combines a seat.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Swimming the stacks

 Looking at a friend's pictures on Facebook I could see the sea was flat calm and gleaming like a mirror: perfect conditions for a swim around the weird and wonderful sandstone stacks of Ladram Bay.  An impromptu plan was hatched, and a group of us met up in the car park of the local holiday camp and sauntered down to the beach, where it was indeed lovely, the sea was shiny and inviting and there was even some January sun.  We plunged into the beautiful clear water and swam round the headland into Wonderland.   The stacks stand like sentinels off the coast, rocky remainders of small promontories. One had a hole through the middle, through which we climbed and then jumped out the other side.  After about 15 minutes we started to get cold and swam back to the beach, leaving the magical kingdom behind.    
Pic: Ron Kahana
Pic: Ron Kahana

Pic: Ron Kahana