One woman's wild swimming adventures in the west country

Stoke Boat Yard

Neither Michelle nor I have been to Stoke Beach before today, and we are disappointed by the rows of ugly green caravans, and the flotsam and jetsam littering the tiny beach. We comment on the lack of care shown to the beach, in contrast to the manicured caravan park. The sea, however, is beautifully greeny-blue and frisky under the blustery sky. We swim up a small gully to open water and are immediately walloped by washing-machine waves.

Honey is usually happy on the beach, but today I turn to see her teetering on the edge of the rocks as the surf hits, from where she is washed to join us. She swims in her speedboat stroke – head right up and forelegs pumping fast. When she reaches us, she relaxes and we accompany her back to the rocks where she somehow manages to land through the white water, which streams from her woolly coat.

We return for another buffeting; loose weed catches my face as I swim, like ghostly hands. I look back shorewards and see bleached, sparse grasses, colourless cliffs and the dusty track. It reminds me of the setting for the final showdown in a Spaghetti Western, to the point that I can hear the spooky strains of Ennio Morricone in the wind.

There are sea anemones in the shallows, and Turban Tops clinging to the rocks below the tide-line. I hear crunching over the sound of the sea; Honey, having tired of eating seaweed, is snacking on molluscs shells and all.

Later, Michelle realises we were swimming from Stoke Boat Yard, just along from the real Stoke Beach which is secreted around the corner behind a rocky headland.


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