One woman's wild swimming adventures in the west country

Oddicombe Talk and Swim

Firstly, a huge thanks to the wonderful Sophie Pierce and Matt, aka Daniel Craig, for a fascinating, informative and entertaining talk on the history of Wild Swimming in, and the geology of Torbay which we enjoyed enormously. Among many notable discoveries, Sophie and Matt had uncovered a cine film from the 1930s showing a group of local women executing perfect swallow dives from sixty-foot cliffs into the sea; a local diving champion and Olympian trained in the same spot. This practice has now been turned on its head to feet-first, reviled and criminalised, and is called ‘Tombstoning’. I can’t help thinking we are so much more dramatic than our predecessors who had far more to worry about than we do. There’s a book of the talk to follow, and I’ll post a link on here when it’s ready.

Following the talk, we descended on the Cliff Railway to Oddicombe for a rainy, choppy swim. We frolicked into the turquoise water en masse through dumping waves, which resulted in some interesting shrieks.The sea is a good degree or two colder than the moorland rivers at the moment, and while I was mostly anaesthetised by the cold I felt a squidgy bump on the arm, which turned out to have been a jellyfish. I wasn’t alone and one swimmer was stung on the face. A couple of swimmers found their what-lies-beneath-the-water-phobias surfacing, the most common of which involved being nudged or mouthed by the infamous Torbay seal-with-the-sense-of-humour.

A couple of us had discussed the sewage outfall following the recent storms on the way down; swimming and bouncing through the briny I saw a white shape which I assumed to be a sanitary towel – Queenie and Stef laughed openly and informed me it was a cuttlefish. A reiteration of the power of suggestion on the mind, and of course I wasn’t wearing my glasses.


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