Monday, 24 September 2012

There's always Hope at Hope

It had been long planned - a birthday celebration swim and beach bbq. Unfortunately the day coincided with the worst weather for at least a month - heavy rain and gales.  I felt a bit depressed at the thought of my beach party being a washout, but we went anyway. However, on arrival at Hope Cove, the sea was clear, flat and lovely.  We swam over the reef, striking with its white striations, towards Thurlestone.  It is a wonderful meander amongst outlandishly shaped rocks, with seaweed swaying and fish darting beneath. We approached a large stack, which Rachel said looked like Roy Orbison in profile, and found an entrancing lagoon.  We swam back and ate bbq'd sausages followed by birthday cake and Champagne. At which point the heavens opened and we repaired to the pub where we spent a cosy hour drinking more bubbly.  Things always seem to turn out happily at Hope Cove. 

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

The beast of Bugle Hole

 I was fixated on having a sunset  swim, and was determined to do so at Bugle Hole. The weather earlier had been glorious, but when Rachel and I set off it was dreary and drizzling. On arrival at Mothecombe it was still resolutely grey, but we trudged on. It's a Janus of of a swimming spot, with different faces at high and low tide. A keyhole shape, at high it is a perfect pool, and at low, a rocky void. We got into the calm water, a lovely contrast to the choppy sea outside. As we swam, something wonderful started to happen. The skies began to brighten around us, and then turned blotchy blue and pink; there was a golden glow on the rocky islands out at sea.  We whooped with delight as we finally got our sunset. The spell was then rudely broken when we  decided to investigate a corner of the pool where, at low tide, there's a cave. We leapt out of our skins when, all of a sudden,  a rude spray of water, accompanied by a terrifying  rumble, spurted out of a hole in the rocks. The Beast of Bugle Hole was obviously telling us to clear off. 

Monday, 17 September 2012

Dying days of the Dart

There's a feeling of slight urgency and also poignancy swimming in the Dart at this time of year. You know that in a few weeks' time the water will be teeth-clenchingly cold, and the river will become unfriendly, if not hostile. So I try and snatch as many swims as I can; today we dipped at Black Pool at Hembury, an expansive oval of dark water, before swimming upstream towards the falls above it. The water was clear, the colour of cider. The reflections of the trees in the water were green, intricate and crystal clear, occasionally shuddering as we swam past.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

How the other half lived

I've long been curious about a ruined tidal pool which is part of the Coleton Fishacre estate in South Devon. The estate was home, in the 20s, to the impresario Ruper D'Oyly Carte, he of opera fame; they lived in fine style in their new, art deco house, with their own private beach - Pudcombe Cove - where they built a seawater swimming pool and sunbathing terrace. Now, due to cliff falls, the beach is only accessible from the water. We set off from nearby Kelly's Cove, into gin-clear sea, where we saw lots and lots of fish, and starfish too. It was a swim of about half a mile, through turquoise water, to get to the D'Oyly Cartes' private playground. I'm afraid to report the tidal pool was rather disappointing. Since the path down to the beach has gone it's been left to the elements (even though it's a listed building) - and it no longer holds water at low tide. The sun terrace is now just a pile of rubble. I stood by the pool and imagined myself back into the roaring twenties, lounging in the sun while sipping a cocktail brought down by the butler. Dream on....

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Palmer Dart Number 3

There are organised swims (in increasing numbers), and then there are swims that friends put on for friends. The Palmer Dart is in the latter category, a four mile swim from Totnes to Stoke Gabriel, organised every September by Olivia Palmer and her husband Stuart. This was their third event: it's just for fun, no money is involved, just an awful lot of good will. As everyone set off in what seemed to be colder and murkier water than usual, there were loud cries of CHEAT when they realised I was getting a lift halfway in the lead boat (he he) but it enabled me to get a view of a very cheeky seal who popped up during the swim and came really close to Stuart who was leading the way - so closed it touched him in fact. It kept popping up and definitely seemed interested in what was going on, but it must have got bored because after a while it disappeared. I got in at the Sharpham boathouse, and did the final two miles, where the river turns from being a slow dark serpent to a wider, saltier, faster expanse of water, where boats bob and seagulls dive. As ever, huge thanks to Olivia and Stuart for a very special swim.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Dartmoor at dusk

We decided to head for a, ahem, lake, on the top of Dartmoor to try and catch some evening sun. To our consternation we found a whole load of Dartmoor Rescue Group and police parked nearby, preparing for some sort of emergency exercise. What unfortunate timing, especially as we didn't want to be discovered or indeed rescued. So we drove over to the opposite side of the 'lake' where we found a lovely spot complete with trees to hang our clothes on. We slipped in to the black silky water, which rippled away into the distance. The soft stillness was quite something as the sun dropped away behind us.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

A pootletastic time

Anna and I are particularly fond of what we call pootling....drifting around in channels and inlets, faces down, brushing past seaweed, marvelling at the colours, spotting fish and generally getting absorbed in the world beneath the surface. Today we visited Butter Bay, in between Bantham and Thurlestone (a noted naturist haunt). At low tide there is a network of gulleys, chasms and pools; we spent a happy hour swimming around, following sandy corridors with rocky walls, pulling ourselves over purple rocks, and weaving through curtains of glowing red seaweed. It was a marine maze, with many delicious dead ends...the perfect place to get lost.