Those of you who follow this blog will know that our numerous attempts at Moon Gazey swims tend to be scuppered by good old Devon weather. This evening we were somewhat optimistic, this being the Imbolc Moon that heralds the start of spring, the spawning of frogs and the lactation of ewes. The Met Office on-line map even showed a slither of moon peeking from behind a white, fluffy cloud at precisely the time of our swim.
And so it was that Honey and I stood in the car park near Venford in the dark. As our eyes adjusted, the pewter almost-glow of the water silhouetted the forestry evergreens that for some reason always clutter the shores of Dartmoor reservoirs – it’s as though someone decides that if there’s one man-made thing, no matter how beautiful, a few hundred thousand foreign trees sucking the life from the ground and the light from the sky and upsetting the ecosystem won’t hurt. Still, it’s only a National Park.
Sophie, Matt and Queenie arrived and we toddled through the trees to the shore, where we changed in the frigid air and wondered what the water temperature might be. Sophie told us it had been just over one degree in the Dart on the previous day. A brief glow on the eastern horizon elicited a Moon Gazey frisson that swiftly morphed into the headlights from an approaching car.
In the end, the moon was provided by Queenie, who with her wild-swimmer’s twisted logic had decided that it would be less hassle to skinny-dip. Honey paddled, snorting softly, while the rest of us sidled in. The cold was almost indescribable, and we all struggled and howled. In the absence of the Moon Goddess there was nothing to distract us from the pain of icy were-wolf talons of water shredding our thighs. I would honestly have got out had the others not been there to apply that all-important peer-pressure.
We swam for a couple of minutes, chuntering, and then changed in the gloom before hurrying back to the cars. Half an hour later as we arrived home I still had frozen feet and an internally-radiating chill.