Crazy Wild Sharrah
The morning deluge is long gone, but the moorland rivers are still rising at tea-time when we meet. Kayaks are spread around the car park, a rare sight in the summer. We peer over the parapet as we cross New Bridge and are scared. Walking up through mud and dripping trees, we hear the river seethe; it’s creamy with foam and the colour of dark chocolate. Parts of the path have fallen away over the summer with the constant rain.
Foam maps the movement of water in Sharrah pool, and there’s an eddy I haven’t seen before on the far side; the current from the cascade reaches three-quarters of the way down, and the eddy circles in a spiral back up the far bank, like stirred coffee. Usually, there are rock-studded shallows at the lower end of the pool where you drift gently aground before the river is forced in a rapid through the narrows, but today the surge completely covers the rocks and there’s a real danger of being swept over. No swimmer would survive that trip. The water is relatively still at the near bank below the entry spot, and we decide we can safely return and exit here. I scan the river for fallen trees, but it looks clear.
We enter the beautiful, chill river and swim with difficulty upstream. It’s like being jostled by beefy Emos in a mosh-pit; arms and legs are bashed in different directions while our bodies vibrate with the roaring bass notes of the falls. I whack my foot on a rock, having not realised I’d been pushed so far over. We collect foam Rocker quiffs and Village People moustaches on the way up to the big boulder where we are able to balance and experience the upper cascade. The energy suffuses me; spray and surging water pulse in time with my blood. I dive forwards and feel like a surfing dolphin in the boiling chocolate water, sinking now and again as I lose my buoyancy.
I return to the top but this time stay longer with the flume and try to enter the circular eddy, but am ripped past. I have to swim flat out to escape to the near bank, my body bending like a banana. I’m panting with effort and exhilaration. Huge raindrops hit my head, and I float on my back in the eddy while the rain forms little fountains on the surface and the oak overhead bends and rustles its leafy tambourine in the gale.
We barbecue in the rain, talk, and drink wine and beer. A couple of kayakers stop for a chat on their way past. We wander back through the pitch black woods well after nightfall. The foam on the surface of the river glows and illuminates its passage down the dark gorge.