wildwomanswimming

One woman's wild swimming adventures in the west country

Juicy Spring River

WWS Submerged

WWS Submerged

Fairy Tree House

Fairy Tree House

A day of whipped wind, wispy clouds and watery blue skies. Honey is frisky; I feel heavy, chilled and tired. She decides on a trip to the Double Dart. We walk from Dartmeet and I’m soon sweating through my t-shirt and summer fleece. Honey skits along, paddling and snuffling among the tree roots. It smells of spring.

Honey Rootles

Honey Rootles

Honey's Twin Checks Me Out

Honey’s Twin Checks Me Out

We rootle around, picking our way through juicily-mossed tumbles of clitter, exploring sculptural stumps and dams left by the incredible winter spates. One dam is at least ten feet above the river level, a wicker wall of bleached, fractured tree limbs and wads of washed-out grass, twigs and bracken, curved like a river current. A speeding toad passes us then dives into a bed of crumpled oak leaves.

A couple are frying bacon on the flat rock from where I meant to swim. The two wide pools here are smooth as satin with every stone and twig visible from the path above.

Since Honey’s summer claim to fame of wolfing the gourmet lunch of Daniel Start’s friends while we swam and chatted in Sharrah Pool, I’ve been hyper-alert to such doggy temptation. We go in further down, sinking through heaped sub aqua sand dunes. The current pulls hard and swamps my grey mood with water the colour and sweetness of Sauternes. There’s a perfect level of nip; it’s far warmer than last week when I struggled to stay in.

Turquoise Tinged Cascade

Turquoise Tinged Cascade

I scramble out and walk up to the narrows, where there’s an unexpected turquoise hue. It’s an easy slide down the mossy rocks into the cascade where I swoosh, suspended in a cloud of bubbles, knees and hip smarting where frozen skin connects with rock. The river rolls me to the eddy. Bumble bees buzz past followed by a low-flying chinook, both sensed rather than heard, the difference between them mostly one of scale. I wade to the bank and my cold water tan burns. We wander back upstream while the roar of the river swirls into birdsong.

Flood Dam Sculpture

Flood Dam Sculpture

Swooshing

Swooshing

Spring Reflections

Spring Reflections

The NHS is not “unsustainable”

wildwomanswimming:

Save the NHS before it’s too late…

Originally posted on Big Up the NHS:

You may have noticed a flurry of articles in the press this week as well as comments by politicians that current NHS spending is “unsustainable”. It has appeared everywhere from an Audit Commission statement to right wing hack Isabel Oakeshott pontificating on BBC Question Time. The sudden popularity of this word in connection with the NHS is interesting and not a little worrying. Why should it happen this week? There have been no big changes in funding plans or expenditure and all the news about the economic growth and financial recovery is good.

It is also strange that Jeremy Hunt has chosen to ignore the spending review body and deny health workers a less than inflation pay rise. No sensible senior manager would do this if they cared for their business. The true cost far outweighs the benefit in real terms. He will infuriate more than a million employees for…

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#withoutthenhs Chain Reaction on Monday 17th March at 8 pm – you can make it your own!

wildwomanswimming:

This has nothing to do with wild swimming, but it has everything to do with why I’m a wild swimmer. I had breast cancer, I had bilateral mastectomies and I’m still here. Without the NHS I would be in serious trouble now. Instead, I’m healthy. And by the way, I work as a paramedic. So please share this widely and participate because if we allow this government to continue with their privatisation of the NHS we will all be sunk.

Originally posted on Big Up the NHS:

The idea is that we encourage as many people as possible to tweet their thoughts about what their lives would be like without the NHS. When enough people do it all together it starts a chain reaction of positive news which can lead to real changes in public mood.

We did an event about a month ago with the tag #biguptheNHS and it was hugely successful. It trended in the UK briefly and at its peak there were several thousand tweets per hour (see below). That was with less than 48 hours planning and only me promoting it. When you watch the tweets of support for the NHS rolling in at this rate it makes you proud to be a part of it. I got genuinely emotional.

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This time we can do better. We have 4 days – and age in the twittersphere – to get a real momentum behind…

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Polar Bear Sharrah

Geddin!

Geddin!

Polar Bear Roar

Polar Bear Roar

We haven’t swum here for ages thanks to the storms and constant rain. There are exposed roots in Sharrah glade like nerves in a flailed body and the track resembles a dry riverbed. The river is surging and elephant rock barely raises its head above the surface.

Sprinting Between Currents

Sprinting To Elephant Rock

Today is not a positive embrace-the-chill sort of day for me.  We dawdle before taking the plunge and when we do it’s like being savaged by a colony of frozen ants. We all struggle to get upstream and are pushed into the rocks. To the right is a gently curvaceous surge, which turns out to be more forceful still than the choppy stream by the bank. There is a mere smattering of natural foam; usually when the river rages we swim through a beery head at least a foot high. By now I’ve contorted into a frog pose and my stroke is more of a judder.  By kicking off an underwater boulder and sprinting between the two currents I make it to the rock.

Squatting on Elephant Rock

Squatting on Elephant Rock

The rapid is spectacular like the tangible roar of a polar bear. We sink a fair way down before popping up with the dissipating bubbles. The water is greenish as though tinted with absinthe and sets off our scarlet cold water tans rather nicely. Six degrees of wonderful.

Negative Buoyancy - Allan Sinks

Negative Buoyancy – Allan Sinks

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Carole is King!

Whitsand Bay

Whitsand Bay

Whitsand Bay

It’s a real shock this – a sunny day! Sadly our plans to swim at Tregantle are foiled thanks to Second World War beach defence ironmongery that’s been uncovered by the recent weeks of extreme storms. So Stef and I pootle down to the middle of the bay and descend the cliffs with the dogs. It’s low tide and we’re concerned about the recent doggy deaths from eating boulders of palm oil washed up on local beaches, particularly since both of our dogs have the word ‘labrador’ in the title. Luckily there doesn’t appear to be any here. Instead, there’s a gingery heap of ripped kelp, alive with flies, and a hail of plastic scattered across the sands. Mist veils the rocky reefs and razor shells lie smashed like little car crashes, spilling pale sausage shaped bodies the colour and texture of clotted cream. And there’s the sound of the sea, soothing and enticing…

By the time we wade in the sun is glaring at a winter angle. The water here pulls and swirls in several directions between the outcrops, and there is a diagonal wave and a nice big rip feeding out from the near reef.  As I pop up from a wipeout I see white puffs of cloud on the horizon that echo the foaming white water perfectly. It’s beautiful, exhilarating, invigorating. We chat about Stef’s daughter and her travels in Cambodia while the cold seeps and slaps and sand churns. The waves dump from eight feet, silky walls of water that rise and curl suddenly before crashing down. Sometimes three or four catch up and we’re in a sea of bubbles. Small fountains erupt from the surface like the ghostly fingers of wrecked sailors.

Afterwards we change slowly, soaked in the warmth of the winter sun; or perhaps the heat is generated by the young couple canoodling in the cave entrance behind us…We have lunch and tea in TrannyVan on the cliff top. Today, instead of running the heater on full we sit with the side and barn doors open. This allows Honey and Boswell to revolve through playing and looking for tennis balls and doggy snacks. Stef’s treat pocket is slick with dog flob.

Honey and Boswell Seek Balls

Honey and Boswell Seek Balls

Foaming Clouds

Foaming Clouds

Skinny Dunk at Black Rock

Ready to Dunk

Ready to Dunk

The tempestuous weather continues unabated, and although I like it wild it’s playing havoc with my swimming. There’s wild, and there’s WILD. Today, Honey and I stomp through black peaty mud the texture of molten chocolate. We make  squelching noises that resemble a liquidised meal being chomped by an octogenarian with badly-fitting false teeth. The pool at Black Rock thunders and the edge of the dam has been washed away. I strip and wade carefully in before plunging under and popping back up like an ice cube in a whisky and soda.  I daren’t swim across.

Skinny Dunking

Skinny Dunking

Dunked

Dunked

Un-Dunking

Un-Dunking

Wadham Wander

Michele Wimping Out

Michele Wimping Out

Sophie’s idea again – Wadham is a secret cove accessed via a precipitous track, and it’s normally frequented by nudists. Rain tips and pours downhill and it’s January, so we  allow ourselves the luxury of layers of fleece, woollies, waterproofs and wellies.  As we pick our way from the cliff top we notice there is a patch of light over the sea, and sure enough the deluge stops.  By this time Honey, who has been groomed to within an inch of her life by her Gran, has transformed from a beautifully fluffy cream puff to a mud-bespattered, drenched mop. Of course she’s found a tennis ball. We scramble the last bit which is more of a mountain-bike drop than a footpath, and spy Richard on the beach waiting for us. His family have refused to leave the car.

Sploshing

Sploshing

The rocks are Dartmouth slate according to Richard who’s done some research. The slate is layered and striped in shades of turquoise-bruise and purple-bruise and small bodies of it pop up from the shingle beach like the undulations of Loch Ness monsters.  We change and plunge into bouncy water, which is stained with mud yet still maintains a blue-green tinge to the predominant battleship grey. It’s not too cold, and being engulfed feels like heaven. Michele and I pootle out towards the end of the  reef where waves are waterfalling and sucking. In the end I go fairly close and allow myself to be pulled over rock wards for a while. I swim some of the return in backstroke and when I turn over I can see Jackie’s customary flower bobbing up and down; a summery, bright pink splurge among the hundred shades of grey.

Backstroke

Backstroke

Sophie and Bun

Sophie and Bun

Well, You Can Cry Me a River

wildwomanswimming:

I love this post from a local blogger who lives on the West Dart. It chronicles beautifully the crazy life of one half of our favourite swimming river, and includes some wild cooling and wild swimming…

Originally posted on Crockern Farm:

Looking out the window at the West Dart River these past weeks reveals a river gone mad.  During the recent storms, it was consistently a fast moving, boiling, roaring, torrent of water.  On more than one occasion it breached its banks, taking part of our stonewall with it and I worried about the big trees on the opposite bank, which became temporary islands of wood as the river swelled with the rains.  These trees already have awkward leans to them, making it seem as if it is just a matter of time before they slide into a resting position on the hillside as I would onto the sofa.

And yet this same river on a warm day offers a place for wading or taking a cooling dip.  The waters gently babble past providing a refreshing tonic.  One summer day, we stood in the river drinking beers with our friend Hilary. …

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Happy Wet New Year

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Finally we managed to swim today after endless storms and flooding. I’ve been hammered by a cold and cough over Christmas and was desperately in need of some chilly, frisky water. So off we went to good old Wembury where the forecast 7-11 foot surf wasn’t too bad at low tide, and the water and air temperatures were both conveniently 10ºc.

Landwards

Landwards

We frolicked in the surf, bobbed around and chatted. Low sun gave two totally contrasting views; one (out to sea) in shades of mercury and the other (towards shore) in technicolor. The seabed resembled a yarn shop at sale time with heaps of ankle-grabbing, tangled, ripped up weeds and the water was khaki, opaque with pulverised sea life.Screen Shot 2014-01-02 at 17.44.16

Afterwards we loitered around Tony’s fire, ate, drank Teri’s mulled cider and shoved hot rocks from the wind-break up our jumpers. An effective way of warming up from the inside. Thanks for reading in 2013 and may you have a wet and wild new year.

Bottoms Up!

Bottoms Up!

Wonderful Wembury

Leaping

Leaping

Waves from Above

Waves from Above

Met the gals for a wonderfully wild swim at Wembury today. It was shortly after high tide, and the breakers were perfectly-sized; large enough for some proper fun but not so big as to cause us problems with getting back in, nor indeed for a repeat of Teri’s ‘stunned sea bass’ impression. Wintery sun seeped through whispy clouds and forged the surface of the sea into molten aluminium.

WWS Ascending a Wave

WWS Ascending a Wave

The messy waves peaked in points, backlit as we leapt to beat the breaks like aquamarine stained glass windows. Chilly water, but nowhere near the freeze of the weekend. I felt a glow of cold radiate from my body, but ice cream neck lasted only briefly as water slapped and walloped us from above. We played and bobbed and marvelled in the light show while we chatted and laughed. Small rafts of seaweed swept past. There’s nothing to beat a wild winter sea. Thanks to Sharon Nicol for the photos.

Hamming it Up

Hamming it Up

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