Tuesday, 30 October 2012

By the light of the silvery moon

I am still on a high this morning after one of the most perfect, otherworldly, awe-inspiring swims ever.  Anna and I swam in the sea at Oddicombe with the full moon glowing like a huge pearl overhead.  It cast an oval of white light on the sea's horizon, and sparkled a rippling pathway of diamonds from the shore. We walked in through a gentle roll of water, warm hats on our heads, and then swam straight towards the moon.  We wondered if the white oval would ever be reachable, or whether it was like a mirage. The water felt and looked like silk, saturated by the gentle moonlight, and as we swam we realised we could see our limbs glowing clearly in the water. We felt part of a tremendous, endless vastness.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

The witches of Spitchwick

As copper, red and gold leaves fell down around us like tired butterflies we walked through the woods to our meeting place, a clearing by the Dart.  We'd been convened by the Sorceress-in-Chief, the lovely Pauline, to celebrate the start of winter, with the clocks going back this weekend.  The red, yellow and orange of the swimmers' hats lent a suitably Halloweenish feel and the coven assembled in the water, shrieking amid temperatures of around 6.6 degrees.  Not so much hubble bubble as shiver tremble. As I swam, I had the strange and oddly enjoyable feeling of my skin burning in the intense cold.  The river always casts its spell.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Dark islands

I love Meadfoot Beach in Torquay because of  all the islands.  Everywhere you look there are lumps of rock sticking out from the sea.  The biggest is Shag Rock, then there is West Shag, and despite the names the islands are mostly populated by cormorants.  We swam at the Eastern end of the beach, in the shadow of Kilmorie Flats, a 1960s monstronsity that looms out of the woods.  The sea was a dark, slaty green - though it looks grey in the pictures -  with a gently rocking swell.  We swam along towards Thatcher Rock, admiring the evergreen oaks clinging to the cliff faces above us, before turning back and swimming to a small pair of chunky islets, guarded by cormorants.

Splendid Cellars

When my spirits are flagging Cellars Beach at the mouth of the Yealm estuary always lifts my mood.  It has a calm, almost Mediterranean beauty; the water is always crystal clear, and is an amazing range of colours from deep green to turquoise, depending on where you are along the estuary. The walk through the woods, with glimpses of limpid river through the trees, is delicious.  The sun shone today and as I swam in the fresh, beautiful water, watching little fishes scatter over the shingle, my heart lifted.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Wild in Torbay

We've had extremely low tides for the last couple of days, and two swims have revealed Torquay's hidden marine wildlife in all its naked, sometimes grotesque beauty. The names say it all: elephant hide sponge, dead men's fingers, to name just a couple; but most exciting of all, I have finally seen a Devonshire Cup Coral.  Our first swim was at London Bridge, a natural arch.  It was a glorious day with bright sun and flat, turquoise sea.  Underneath the arch we saw starfish, dead men's fingers and various sponges; we swam into a double cave at the side of the Bridge and were overwhelmed by the sheer power of the light suffusing the water.   The following day we swam at Oddicombe, a mile or two up the coast, and again, because of the low tide, saw masses of corals and anemones nestling in the rock faces.  It was here I saw the Devonshire Cup Coral - almost exactly in the middle of this picture - it's such a romantic name, I have always dreamt about seeing one. Shame that, close up, it actually looks like a cat's bottom.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Lumpy bumpy

It was supposed to be an exploratory meander around the reefs and stacks between Thurlestone and Hope Cove, but murky seas and swell put a stop to that. Far from 'swimming and staring' it was more of a head-down swim.  The idea was to go through the 'eye of the needle' at Thurlestone Rock, and along the coastline to Hope; it was quite rough around the arch though, and so we (reluctantly) did the sensible thing and went round the outside.  It was hard going at first, with a current against us, and it took me a while to settle down; there's always a bit of nervousness when it's a route you haven't done before.  It got easier though and we enjoyed looking at the stick people on the cliffs above us as we swam.  It was the first time I've worn a wetsuit for several months, and it felt like the start of Autumn. 

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Sunset decadence

Picture the scene....a feisty frolic in extremely bouncy blue surf, followed by a sybaritic soak in a wood-fired hot tub on the beach. What a way to spend a Saturday evening.  A couple of enterprising brothers had decided they were going to put a hot tub on the beach at Slapton Sands and so we went along to try it out.  It was a beautifully bright autumn afternoon, and we made long shadows as we crunched down the shingle. Getting into the sea was not a dignified experience. As we approached, the rollers tried to crash us over and pull us under.  We bobbed around for a while, looking up at black-backed gulls wheeling around the sky like bits of ash off a bonfire. Then it was tub time. It was pure pleasure to sit in the deliciously warm water; like being in a big cup of tea. We felt like princesses - and a prince - as we sat there, the wood smoke tickling our nostrils, sipping champagne, nibbling on cake, and gazing out to sea.