One woman's wild swimming adventures in the west country

Wells Next the Sea and Holkham Bay

Wrinkled Sand


We go for a long wander along the beach at Wells at low tide on Monday morning. Again, the parking is extortionate so we limit ourselves to two hours. There are warning signs since there’s dredging under way in order to clear Wells Harbour for the large vessels servicing the new offshore wind farms, whose ghostly forms can be glimpsed on the horizon. The Coastguards have a hut on the beach and a claxon to warn of the incoming tide so that people don’t get trapped on the wrong side of the channel. There is mud chunked and slicked in places and the sea is a distant memory.

Distant Sea

Distant Sea

Here the razor and oyster shells are heaped like landfill but there’s remarkably little plastic jetsam on the high tide line. Below this, the sand is furrowed like a worried forehead and frosted with dry sand. Honey expresses her inner labrador and finds some mud in which to bathe, while flinging bits of seaweed around like rats.

Honey Sea Gazing

Honey Sea Gazing

Later we drive on up the coast and stop at a track that leads across the marshes to the piece of coast path we walked yesterday. This time we turn right at the end and walk down the beach for a mile or two into Holkham Bay, which isn’t a bay in the Devon sense of the word; it’s more a dink in the endless sandy coastline edged with indigenous conifers. It’s high tide, and we swim in salty, still warm sea that’s almost orange. The strongly fishy smell later alerts me to the presence of algal bloom – possibly the same one that’s been hanging around Torbay for the past month. I didn’t feel or really notice it in the water, perhaps because there is no gentle swell here and no soft blue or startling turquoise where the stain would be noticed, just flat grey-brown choppiness stretching into forever.

Holkham Bay Swim

Holkham Bay Swim

Honey Dries Off

Honey Dries Off


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