One woman's wild swimming adventures in the west country

Dipping on the North Teign

We stride over Kes Tor on a blustery day with little bursts of rain and sun and scudding clouds. Honey jumps through a bog and snaps at the cotton tails as they bob back and forth in the gale.  I glimpse the North Teign in the distance, narrow and straight as it crosses the common and hear the tinkle of water through the wind and the squelching of the rain-sodden turf as we tread. My hair slaps across my face and even the hairs on my arms are blowing horizontally.

We cross the tiny clapper bridge and walk through foxgloves, thistles and bracken, every so often stepping across one of the tiny gardens secreted within peat-holes. Walla Brook joins the river as it begins its plummet into Teigncombe Cleave, just above a holey rock that sits above the water like a wild lavatory. (My friend Jackie tells me this is the Whooping Cough Stone, where if you pass a child with Whooping Cough through the hole s/he will be cured). We discover a small horseshoe falls, but the flow is too fast to get near today.

We dip and swim in a lovely pool enveloped by mountain ash, blackthorn and gorse.  A the sun comes out the water glows like a winter fire reflected in burnished copper, adding to the frisson of the chill as I dunk under.  I try to swim, but keep grounding on submerged rock slabs slimy with brown silt. The wind swoops upstream and ruffles the surface which glints like a shoal of fish.

We wend our way back up stream past the pong of a dead sheep, her body dissolved  like the Wicked Witch of the West beneath a splatted fleece and gently curving horns. Upstream from the clapper bridge I float on my back in the shallows, water rushing one way and the wind the other, while rushes and foxgloves bend like animal pelts in the wind. Bruise-grey clouds gather behind.


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