One woman's wild swimming adventures in the west country

Snowy Dip on Dartmoor

FloatingI trudge, head down, through the snow and howling easterly gale towards the river Lyd. Honey goes loopy doodle and leaves yeti-prints in the drifts. It starts to snow again and I have to pull my hat down because the flakes are travelling so fast they feel like sand in my eyes. The view over Widgery Cross is breathtaking, and drifts blow to form knife-edged waves and ripples below the stone wall. Gorse flowers peek through puffs of snow like little suns.Snowy Dip

I change under Black Rock, but it’s not sheltered at all and the gale surges up the valley riffling and rucking the surface of the pool. I was hoping to dip in just a swimsuit and boots, but the wind chill is seriously dangerous (I estimate it to be around -23ºc) and Honey and I are alone, so I decide to wear a swimsuit, a rash vest, boots, gloves and a silicone hat. As I change my legs turn cherry red, which doesn’t usually happen until you’ve been in very cold water for a while.Honey Joins In

I take a deep breath and brace myself for the freeze, smiling broadly. At the risk of sounding like Uri Geller, it really is all about positive mental attitude. Strangely, it feels warmer in than out and I don’t get ice-cream anything as I swim towards the falls. Light reflects from the snow, and the amber water glows like hot embers beneath me. I plunge under and become a firework as my skin burns and the water sparkles and bubbles explode from the cascade. I pop to the surface and float on my back, giggling.Firework

I stay in for around three minutes, and although I’m tempted it would be foolish to swim some more. Slithering over icy rocks to leave the water the wind slaps into me. I’m completely numb.  I change rapidly, fumbling under my Robie. My little cotton mat is frozen to the ground and I have to pull hard to un-stick it. I dry Honey and we trek back the mile and a half to the car, by which time we’re almost warm-ish. There are no words to describe this exhilaration.Gale Ruffling Water

Gorse Shines Through

Wandering Back

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15 thoughts on “Snowy Dip on Dartmoor

  1. Wow! Have you always had such a tolerance to cold? Amazing pictures and lovely prose, as usual.

    • Thanks Jane. I’m acclimatised quite well, but it’s in the head as I said. At the weekend I went for a dip in Torquay after a horrible day when the water was about 10 degrees and I really struggled. Guess the water here was about 2 ish, and it felt warm because it was so beautiful, and so utterly freezing outside!

  2. Can’t say more than Jane has. Exhilarating indeed.

  3. You nutter!! Hope you’ve defrosted now.


  4. wildwomanswimming on said:

    Yep all warmed up in front of the woodburner, which I lit when we got back. Even Honey was a bit chilly…beautiful though isn’t it?

  5. 2 degrees eh? Sea here is about 7 which is more than cold enough for me. Well done.

    • Hi Ian, not sure as I’ve lost my pool thermometer, but it would be around that as the water hadn’t yet frozen on the falls…semi-educated guess!
      7 is more than cold enough for me too, but there’s something about snow than changes my mindset…

  6. Hi. This sounds amazing. I enjoy your writing and photos. I hope you don’t mind me commenting. I found your blog via the outdoor swimming society page on Facebook. Bev.

  7. You have got to be joking! Happy to walk along this bank wrapped up warm but I’ll leave you to let me know all about the immersion experience 🙂

  8. Karen on said:

    I live near Widgery Tor and have walked along the river Lyd from the car park near the Dartmoor Inn. I can’t find this swim. The only pool I can think of is at the ford where the horses meet.

    Could you give me a map reference or help me to find it?


  9. Had to flick back through some winter swimming! I definitely need some form of towel-robe for quick changes on the beach, better get the sewing machine out.

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