Monday, 26 September 2011

Bumpy Burgh

To Burgh Island for my annual birthday circumnavigation. This year it was a very bouncy ride. Big swell and great waves foaming over all the rocks on the way round; gloriously exhilarating. I used my new fins and they really helped. We went clockwise, and as we passed through Death Valley (a sort of mini Grand Canyon) the water calmed and flattened, and we got our breath back. While there we saw a pair of baby oyster catchers hopping about high on a ledge. On the last leg, around the western side of the island, we were helped in by the southerly wind and I started to see fish - a large wrasse, and groups of sand smelt flashing around. Afterwards we drank Champagne on the beach; what a perfect day.

Avoiding algae

After an attempt to swim in a lake had to be abandoned because of the presence of toxic blue-green algae, we headed for the River Bovey nearby. We found a beautiful pool, but it was rather shallow. As well as the usual trout, minnows etc, there were masses of balls in the bottom of the pool. We soon discovered why. It was like Piccadilly Circus. Dog walkers passing every few minutes, and then, to cap it all a group of twenty eight Shetland Sheepdogs - or Shelties - arrived. It turned out it was one of the quarterly get-togethers of the Sheltie Owners' Club.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Beautiful Beesands

When the sea is raging off the South coast of the South Hams, it's often calmer on the eastern side, between Dartmouth and Start Point, and so it proved today. At Beesands, the vast flat ocean spread out as far as the eye could see. The visibility was amazing; as we swam from the shore the shingle dropped away and it felt like being in space. We dived down to the pebbly seabed, before heading up again to the surface. I was testing some glass goggles from Cressi, courtesy of Simply Swim. They felt comfortable on the face, and everything looked crisp and clear; even better they didn't steam up. Apparently because they are made of tempered glass they are less likely to get scratched. Then I tried out some fins from Aquasphere - they were brilliant. They are made of flexible foam and so gently amplify your movement, helping you realise what you're actually doing, and so learn how to improve your stroke. Thanks to the fins I was able to keep up with my friend and swimming guru Kari (which I normally can't), and we swam together down the coastline towards Hallsands. On our return we were against the current, and again, the fins really helped. Thanks to Simply Swim for the gear.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

The Palmer Dart

It was the second 'Palmer Dart' - a four mile swim between Totnes and Stoke Gabriel organised by the lovely Olivia and Stuart Palmer. We swam on the outgoing tide; as we set off, on cue, the sun came out, glittering and rippling on the water. I was wearing a wetsuit, after a summer swimming without one, and found it difficult to get into a rhythm; eventually I got into my stride. Occasionally I turned on my back and sculled along, looking up at the blue overhead, with buzzards circling and the occasional skein of geese flying past. About two thirds in the tiredness really hit, but after a couple of pitstops for food and water I was fine. What a great feeling arriving into Stoke Gabriel, exhausted but happy (and last). We revived ourselves with bacon butties at the River Shack, meeting lots of lovely people from the South London swimming club who'd come down from the event...the party carried on in the evening at the village hall, with fish and chips and boogying. Now that's what I call a perfect day.

Sunset at Sharpham

The Sharpham estate lies between Totnes and Dartmouth on the banks of the glorious Dart. We met for an early evening swim round a big bulging bend in the river, upstream with the tide from South Quay to North Quay. The river here is magnificent and stately. As we swam with a gentle current pushing us, the sun gradually set, and at the end we were swimming towards a golden path reflected on the water.

Monday, 5 September 2011

The hidden horse's head

Prawle Point is the most southerly bit of Devon...and scene of many a shipwreck. I had heard that it has an arch shaped like a horse's head but had never managed to see this natural phenomenon from the shore. We got into the sea at Western Cove, just to the East of the point. There is a whole series of little coves there, like mini swimming pools with steep rocks either side: gorgeous, like being in Greece. As we swam out it got choppier and choppier, but looking towards the Point we still couldn't see the horse's head. Out a bit further, and there was a shout from Judy. "There it is!" A stark silhouette of horses's head, even down to the ears, the sun shining behind it. Ellie and Kate, strong swimmers, managed to swim up to it, but had to climb out rather than swimming back, because of the current. HEALTH WARNING: strong currents around Prawle Point. If you don't want the bother of swimming out to look at the head, you can see a picture here.