Snowy Sharrah Magic
High on Dartmoor, the Double Dart slows briefly between two sets of rapids to form Sharrah Pool. There are plenty of breathtakingly beautiful places on this stretch of river, but Sharrah is special. It’s enchanting, entrancing, and it never fails to throw buckets of Dartmoor pixie-dust at anyone who sees it.
Today there is a sprinkling of snow and it’s still falling as we arrive in the glade by the pool. The temperature hasn’t gone above freezing for days; it’s 3ºC in the river. The water is much paler than usual and has lost its deep coppery gleam and black depths. By the rapids, it’s almost turqoise, and there’s a gelid, greeny tint that I’ve never seen here before.
Pam, Sarah and I wear wetsuits, boots, gloves and hats. We slide into the river and swim up the eddy towards the top falls. Ice creeps through the neck of my suit. I dip my face under and taste pure chill; my lips freeze almost immediately. We reach the rapid and throw ourselves off the rock. It’s like jumping into a beautiful cocktail made with creme de menthe and the most effervescent volcanic water. The bubbles burst fast on the surface in a shower of sparks like fireworks, and I can hear the fizz above the roar of the waterfall. Then I shoot along as though in the tail of a comet.
Snowflakes drift past. Icicles coat the rocks at the falls, and it’s hard to tell them from the gushing spumes of water. The boulders in the glade are iced with snow. Honey jumps between them, following us upstream.
My fingers slowly freeze from the tips down, and after fifteen minutes or so I’m forced to leave this magical water world. We change, eat shortbread and drink hot chocolate. We dip our fingers in warm water from a flask. Mine are blue and the intense pain whirls me back to my childhood of wet wool socks in wellingtons and winter chilblains.
With thanks to my new friends from Hampshire OSS who shared the magic.