One woman's wild swimming adventures in the west country

Saturnalia Swim, Spitchwick

The river is up, but not too angry today and the coppery water is 8°c. I decide to go without my wetsuit, and wear my wet rash vest from yesterday’s swim, a pair of patchwork hippie shorts, and wetsuit boots, plus my floral hat. The five of us plunge straight in; Joh, Jackie, Lesley, Honey and me.

Icy water squeezes my chest and sends chills like needles up my neck. We’re all shrieking and screaming, and the shrill sounds physically cut through my body. Within a minute or so, I am simultaneously burning up and numb. I make a conscious effort to unclench my shoulders and swim upstream on the slow side in staccato breast stroke. Jackie as usual is grinning broadly and swimming serenely as though the water were tropical. Lesley passes me in front crawl which splatters the surface with tiny balls of water that roll around for a few seconds before vanishing back into the river. Honey crashes festively into a holly bush on the bank.

After ten minutes we leap out and change, skin as red as holly berries. We toast Saturnalia and midwinter with gluhwein, gingerbread, mince pies, and a Bonio. 


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