wildwomanswimming

One woman's wild swimming adventures in the west country

Archive for the month “September, 2013”

Marvellous Moon Gazey

moongazey wembury1There’s a full moon due and predictably, it’s a drizzly horrid day. Except the cloud begins to lift and the horizon comes into view as the sun drops. And then a brief glimpse of the plump full moon, gleaming pale gold. At Wembury she remains hidden by the hills. There’s a four-foot swell rolling gently to shore while the Mewstone lurks like a shark beyond the bay.

The sun sets without too much fuss over Wembury Point while moon-glow silhouettes the hills behind us, creeping higher and higher in a teasing burlesque till we are finally able to gaze on the full moon from the sea and swim across her spot-lit path. Waves curve silver and shatter like mirrors.

A thousand thanks to Teri Cox for the photos. I’d taken my new GoPro for a try out in the dark. I set it on stills, to take 10 in 2 second bursts when I pressed the shutter.  A 20 minute swim: 560 photos. All of them were black…

Sue in Surf

Sue in Surf

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London Bridge with Foreigners

Bouncy Behind the Arch

Bouncy Behind the Arch

Beneath the Surface...

Beneath the Surface…

Under the Arch

Under the Arch

It’s the day after the Dart 10k and some of our ‘foreign’ visitors have come to join us on a swim to London Bridge arch in Torquay. It’s a bit friskier than forecast as stormy weather approaches, but the sea is still warm and the waves are not too big. Our first shock comes from the appearance of a conger eel on the beach – dead, luckily, as these big boys can have your leg off by all accounts; well, the accounts of fishermen anyway.

Extreme Bobbing Poppet-Style

Extreme Bobbing Poppet-Style

I hang back with Plum, Paul and Poppet, who at seven is an amazingly confident and strong swimmer, dealing happily with regular submersions during her extreme bobbing session. Plum and Poppet return to shore after a few hundred meters, and we catch up with the others near the arch. There are a couple of boys swimming with another visitor and they also do a fine job of taking on the stormy seas. I persuade a swimmer from London to keep going – he’s more than capable but unused to these conditions. It’s a good demonstration of the value of experience.

You can still see the cave entrance, but it’s certainly too high and bouncy to risk going through. The water’s so wonderful today, pointy witch’s hat waves, splats, turquoise and clear. The barnacled limestone sets off the colour beautifully.

Returning to Land

Returning to Land

The back entrance to the cave is largely sheltered since the swell is approaching more or less at ninety degrees to the arch. I venture in, but the gyre is filled with flotsam and jetsam which includes the usual plastic bottles and some unidentifiable stuff so I quickly venture out again, but not before marvelling in the deep petrol blue glow of the sea inside.

I’ve got my new GoPro camera working; it’s a different entity from a conventional camera as there’s no screen, so rather than framing shots these pictures are all from my point of view. The camera is attached to my forehead with a head harness, and causes some issues with my goggles, but it’s early days and there’s plenty of scope for experimentation.

Afterwards we eat cookies and Blueberry, Basil and Martini Cake.

The Arch

The Arch

Under the Arch Some More

Under the Arch Some More

Swimming Back

Swimming Back

East Okement

Descending

Descending

 

Stef and Boswell

Stef and Boswell

Another river scramble on Dartmoor; this time it’s the East Okement which cleaves the rock from Belstone Ridge through Halstock Woods. We have a nice little gang of explorers and, as usual for when Deb visits from Kernow, ‘things’ happen. Today we walk a couple of miles to the ancient Chapel Ford, where there is also a clam bridge and steps, and descend back to the flatter area below the falls in order to change into our water gear. At this point we are passed by an elderly and clearly vulnerable man, who stumbles and falls. He turns out to be missing from his home. Once we’ve escorted him back, slowly, to the waiting police and returned to our swim spot a good hour has passed.

Deb in the Shower

Deb in the Shower

We’re now wet from the rain, and desperate to join Lucien in the river. The fun and beautiful part of the East Okement is a long, narrow sequence of cascades overhung by indigenous deciduous woodland. The rock is black and slithery, rippled and ridged in a negative of the river. Each little basin and gully is filled and emptied at either end by waterfalls. We don’t dare to slide down the biggie which is around twenty feet high and which ends in a flat rock rather than a pool, although we lean over and marvel at its dramatic curved turns. We follow Lucien and climb in from below for a pummelling.

Each pool lurks beneath near vertical walls and trees and echoes with the sound of water gurgling and falling. Our breath mists the surface against the dark, dank rock and we’re soon chilled and shivering. Such elemental beauty overcomes any discomfort, although as Sophie says, we ought really have done this during the heatwave.

Thanks again to Allan Macfadyen for the photos.

Helen Half Way Up the Big One

Helen Half Way Up the Big One

Lost Souls in Dewerstone Woods

Teri

Teri

Pool of Lost Souls

Pool of Lost Souls

Teri, the dogs and I climb the stone track through Dewerstone Woods above the Plym. This is the place where the river hurtles down the valley from the moors towards Plymouth and the sea. It’s nippy, green-gold and shimmering beneath the cold, grey slab of the Dewerstone which looms above us in stark contrast. It’s easy to imagine the horrifying legends associated with this rock even in the late summer sun. ‘Old Dewer’ is the Dartmoor name for the Devil, and he has been known to drive lost travellers over the edge with his Whisht Hounds, headless dogs who live in Wistman’s Wood. Any lost souls would land right on top of us in this lovely little pool where we are wallowing. A couple of climbers wave to us; they have ropes, luckily.

Rock Slide

Rock Slide

We slide and dawdle and float and chat and listen to the birds and the gentle tinkle and rush of the water. Honey has found a tennis ball and amuses herself by dropping it in the river and retrieving it; Devon, Teri’s Jack Russell follows us, hopping from rock to rock in deep concern for our welfare.

We arrive at the big slide, and shoot off the edge into the pool; then we struggle to the cascade to the side. Teri goes right in and gets ice-cream head. Devon is stuck; she is lured into sliding down the rock, small wings of water behind each foot like a doggy Hermes. She plops into the pool and swims flat out to the edge before Old Dewer steals her soul.

Thanks to Teri Cox for the fab photos – still having camera issues…

Plym Shower

Plym Shower

Devon and Honey Below the Dewerstone

Devon and Honey Below the Dewerstone

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