One woman's wild swimming adventures in the west country

Swimming Out with the Tide: Lostwithiel to Golant

The water in the upper reaches of the tidal Fowey River is a chilly 12.5°C when we slip in at 8.30am in bright sunshine. I dunk my face and am glad I chose to wear my wetsuit. Stef and I have decided to pootle for this cheeky little four-mile swim, and once we’ve warmed-up we stop for a float and a chat washed with the green light from the overhanging trees. We meander with the river whose banks are frayed by masses of reeds, and pass a pair of unconcerned swans while skeins of Canada Geese cross overhead. A swallow swoops close enough to touch.

The water is thick and opaque with silty lifeforms, illuminated by distinct rays of greeny-amber. I watch the bubbles stream from my hands and hear the glug as I exhale. Floating on my back, sun sprays from ripples. The river widens, and there’s a faint tang of saltiness like perspiration.

Now we are able to stand, feet sliding in clay studded with harder nuggets. I’m ambushed by Stef and Richard and we lob mud pies at each other. Queenie (towing a dry-bag full of cake), Rosie and Bridget mud-jump to meet us, bouncing along through waist-high water in a slow-mo run like Chariots of Fire. The estuary is wide, littered with boats, and overwhelmingly blue.


Queenie and I swim the last stretch side by side, through water that is suddenly the colour of milk chocolate, and flecked with bits of grass. My fingers are splayed with the cold. We clamber out onto the slip way and feel the heat from the sun.



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