wildwomanswimming

One woman's wild swimming adventures in the west country

Lower Tavy and the Pixie Pool

Denham Woods; tiny, acid-green leaves, bluebells, wild garlic, and wood anemones spread across the view like the dots of colour in Seurat painting. Candy, Lily Lurcher, Honey and I meander up the Tavy.  There is a faint bluebell smell, and a nuthatch pecks at the ground. The river flows fast round the bobsleigh-run bends. We hear a plop, and realise Honey is missing; we find her scrabbling under the overhung bank fighting the current, and have to rescue her.

We slip in from slanted rocks, and swoosh downstream feet first. The water is cold and clear. Honey and Lily race along the bank, occasionally barking and growling in an excited spat. I hear Candy laugh and feel a series of heavy bumps on my bum as we hit a shallow patch and hammer into rocks. Cold water creeps up my hair and clamps it to my scalp. We eventually stand by lying back and dropping our feet to the riverbed, allowing the water to push us up. We wade for a bit before speeding down beneath the hollowed bank on the bend, overhung by roots and dark, crumbling earth scented with leaf-mould.

We walk around a section of river where there are a couple of fallen trees, through melted milk chocolate mud, before floating down a little further and swooping along the edge of a circular pool. At its end is a wide, shallow cascade where I intend to stop, but I find myself being swept across the flow and pushed back upstream close to the hollowed bank. We’re in a dreamy whirl-pool, with a still surface. I’m reminded of the face of an ageing Hollywood star, strangely smooth atop a wrinkled body dropping downhill fast. It’s like being caught in a beautiful dream: pixie-green light bathes the glassy, amber water and the tinkle of the shallows and wild birdsong swirl as we float, impelled by the magic, hidden whirl, round and round and round.

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