One woman's wild swimming adventures in the west country

Aveton Gifford to Bantham

I’ve been drafted in as an escort for this swim, down the beautiful Aune (Avon) to Bantham, which is a part of Kari and Louise’s open water Swimming Weekend.  There are swans with cygnets around, and someone has added Beware Mad Swan in marker pen at the bottom of the car-park sign in Aveton Gifford. Blue sky with mackerel clouds and bright sun make the river water glow greeny orange. As it’s a neap tide we have to walk a bit more than usual through sqidgy mud and shallow water, all part of the wild swimming experience!

As I swim I hear honks from passing geese. Mud seamlessly gives way to sand and shells; tufts of sea-lettuce point the way.  I taste a tang of salt, then feel the chill on my feet and hands where the denser seawater has sunk beneath the warm blanket of the river. The underwater landscape is pocked with shells and coiled rag worm casts like tiny Inca temples. A large fish crosses beneath me, but I have no idea what species it is. 

The easterly wind hits as we round the bend near the village. The current from the receding tide is breathtaking here, and you can see where it runs fastest as the breeze has whipped the turquoise water to  a frenzy.

We stop briefly, then decide to swoop down with the current, exiting before the rip pulls us out to sea. Many of our swimmers haven’t done this kind of thing before, but all of them are game and trust us!  We shoot past the summer holiday world of the sand bar on the corner; it’s littered with people laughing and enjoying the sun, in stark contrast to the wild isolation upstream.

We exit at the estuary mouth; a sparkling vision of rough water, blowing spray and sunlight, through which Burgh Island hovers in the distance like Avalon.

Finally, I had a gorgeous late lunch from the Gastrobus in the car park at Bantham: A giant cheese straw (warmed in a cast-iron oven) with pesto and red pepper tapanade, all home-made and served with charm and friendly banter.  Highly recommended.

Details of Kari and Louse’s Swim Weekends and other courses are here:



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