Monday, 27 September 2010

Around the island (again)

It's becoming a bit of a birthday tradition (mine) to have a beach party and swim around Burgh Island. For the last few years we've had much better weather in September than August, and today was no exception. The conditions were absolutely perfect. Flat calm sea, bright sunshine and the occasional scudding cloud. We had three 'Burgh Virgins' in the group; they were all so chuffed to make it round. We swam at the bottom of the tide, and it was a really low one. So much so that the channel at the back of the island - normally a dramatic watery passageway - had just a dribble at the bottom. We saw armies of cormorants lined up at the back of the island, and, in total contrast, charming little rock pipits which hopped around the rocks right close to us.

Happy hedgehogs

The hedgehog (mushrooms) have arrived! They are always slightly later than the others, but we found our first proper crop today. They are such lovely mushrooms - rarely have maggots, very meaty, and seem to withstand all weathers, appearing pristine whenever you find them.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

We did it!

Well after about six months of planning, hopes, dreams, frustrations, and shredded nerves, the big day finally came. The inaugural Agatha Christie Swim took place in Paignton, between the pretty beaches of Goodrington and Broadsands. 250 hardy souls swam what seemed like quite a bit more than a mile. The bravest - including the Mayor, Nick Bye - pictured here - did it without wetsuits. Respect. The event wasn't without its hiccups - especially in the water, I seemed to swallow half of Tor Bay - but hey, if we can raise thousands of pounds for the BBC Radio Devon Air Ambulance Appeal, it will have been worth doing.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Stripping and dipping

As my friend Anna and I were getting changed by the river bank, ready to try out a new pool we'd spotted from the road, we saw a couple coming down the bank on the other side. They settled down opposite us; he was armed with a large camera. We thought nothing of it, got in the water and started to swim. Suddenly out of the corner of my eye, there was a flash of flesh (well, bottom to be precise) and I noticed the woman seemed to have taken some of her clothes off; when I looked again they were all off and a nude photoshoot was in progress. As you can imagine we were terribly British and kept on swimming around as though it was the most normal thing in the world. It was rather lovely actually - all very artistic among the moss and ferns. Wild swimming has never been so exciting.

Mushroom bonanza

The mushrooms have gone mad. They are sprouting everywhere. On our walk today we found masses of goodies including chanterelles, hedgehogs, millers, ceps and wood blewitts. Of course lots of goodies also means lots of baddies: there were scores of panther caps - v poisonous. We also spotted two death caps, which as the name suggests are, ahem, deadly. To quote the great John Wright, author of the River Cottage Mushroom book (the only field guide which makes me laugh out loud), "A single specimen is quite enough to despatch you into the next world".

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Down the Dart

I was quite anxious about this swim. Four miles down the Dart from Totnes to Stoke Gabriel is a long way. However we were swimming at the top of the tide, going with the flow, and the whole thing was simply glorious. The Dart estuary is magnificent. It flows majestically towards the sea, past marshes, reed beds and green rolling hills. As we neared Stoke Gabriel the river started to metamorphose; the water became more salty, the banks became more rocky and strands of kelp started to brush our faces. Around 30 of us did the swim, which was organised by the lovely Olivia. Thanks Olivia! We ended up at the ideally placed River Shack where we tucked into scrumptious bacon butties and other goodies.