One woman's wild swimming adventures in the west country

Archive for the month “February, 2013”

Not That Kind of Moon Gazey

Sophie Covers the MoonThose 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.Dark and Damned Cold

Porthcurno Performance

Porthcurno Gazing down over Porthcurno beach from the path by the Minack theatre I feel the urge to throw my arms wide and burst into an aria in celebration of its indescribable gorgeousness. It’s a place where endless skies meet endless seas which slam into the cliffs and rebound in a seething mass. My hair is blowing horizontally and my coat is luffing loudly. There are rips pulling the water back out to sea. Should I be sensible, or obey the compulsion to leap into the ocean at once?Matt Performs

Foaming FunFar below in the car park, Matt has already decided to ‘have a look’, so the two of us change behind a slightly sheltered rock where my hair is merely at forty-five degrees. We watch closely for a bit, and decide on an entry spot away from the area where most waves are crossing and where there is no rip. The seas’s atomised in the gale and hits us way before we touch the foam. A couple of Grey Seals are surfing further out. Wading in, the undertow pulls the sand from beneath our feet and there’s an unsettling sensation of movement while the landscape stays where it is and the sea churns.

I’m on my arse before the water’s over my knees, and we’re hit by wave after wave. Matt performs a star jump. As they rear up ready to break, the rollers are illuminated from behind like stained glass in the rarest pale turquoise. Legs aching as we fight the undertow, we’re panting and laughing and diving through, over or under the breaks. We stay well within our depth; there’s no way we can swim safely out. Finally we body surf back in, landing inelegantly on the sand in an exhilarated heap. It’s only then that I notice the cold.Wipe Out!Stained Glass Waves

Prussian Blue

A couple of posts from deepest Cornwall where we’re spending a weekend. We descend the steep path to Prussia Cove, unsure which of the forks to take. One vanishes through a rabbit-hole in the shrubs so we head that way like Alice in Wonderland. Aptly, the sea glows Prussian blue between the rocky reefs.

It’s icy cold, gently undulating and luminous in the shallows where patches of shell sand reflect sunlight. We can see each other’s bodies beneath the surface even in the distance. We float back to the shingly shore through a narrow gap in the rocks which we name Aphrodite’s Passage, in the spirit of romance engendered by such pulchritude.

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