wildwomanswimming

One woman's wild swimming adventures in the west country

Archive for the category “Dartmoor”

Juicy Spring River

WWS Submerged

WWS Submerged

Fairy Tree House

Fairy Tree House

A day of whipped wind, wispy clouds and watery blue skies. Honey is frisky; I feel heavy, chilled and tired. She decides on a trip to the Double Dart. We walk from Dartmeet and I’m soon sweating through my t-shirt and summer fleece. Honey skits along, paddling and snuffling among the tree roots. It smells of spring.

Honey Rootles

Honey Rootles

Honey's Twin Checks Me Out

Honey’s Twin Checks Me Out

We rootle around, picking our way through juicily-mossed tumbles of clitter, exploring sculptural stumps and dams left by the incredible winter spates. One dam is at least ten feet above the river level, a wicker wall of bleached, fractured tree limbs and wads of washed-out grass, twigs and bracken, curved like a river current. A speeding toad passes us then dives into a bed of crumpled oak leaves.

A couple are frying bacon on the flat rock from where I meant to swim. The two wide pools here are smooth as satin with every stone and twig visible from the path above.

Since Honey’s summer claim to fame of wolfing the gourmet lunch of Daniel Start’s friends while we swam and chatted in Sharrah Pool, I’ve been hyper-alert to such doggy temptation. We go in further down, sinking through heaped sub aqua sand dunes. The current pulls hard and swamps my grey mood with water the colour and sweetness of Sauternes. There’s a perfect level of nip; it’s far warmer than last week when I struggled to stay in.

Turquoise Tinged Cascade

Turquoise Tinged Cascade

I scramble out and walk up to the narrows, where there’s an unexpected turquoise hue. It’s an easy slide down the mossy rocks into the cascade where I swoosh, suspended in a cloud of bubbles, knees and hip smarting where frozen skin connects with rock. The river rolls me to the eddy. Bumble bees buzz past followed by a low-flying chinook, both sensed rather than heard, the difference between them mostly one of scale. I wade to the bank and my cold water tan burns. We wander back upstream while the roar of the river swirls into birdsong.

Flood Dam Sculpture

Flood Dam Sculpture

Swooshing

Swooshing

Spring Reflections

Spring Reflections

Advertisements

Shilley Willy

Flying Entry

Flying Entry

Honey and I accompany Matt and Aaron on an exploratory trip to Shilley Pool. We wade and scramble pool-wards over sodden ground dotted with clitter and clumps of rusted bracken. Matt drops knee deep into a bog.  Blackaton Brook is a tiny tributary of the upper Teign and looks like nothing with the colours of the open moorland  leeched by mizzle and the rumbling water secreted beneath dark undergrowth.

Suddenly all is revealed; a series of smooth rocks curve gently down into the near-circular pool which is dammed by boulders at the lower end. It starts to rain heavily as we arrive, and we slide in from the top to slow boiling water. It’s like swimming in a mixture of Guinness, Jail Ale and ice in a pub drip tray at the end of a busy night. The infinity pool effect looking downstream is gorgeous. We reckon the river temperature to be around 6-7ºc, chillier still than the Teign where we swam earlier. It’s strange how your brain interprets this level of cold: the burn of my body could be from heat, while my hands feel painfully freezing.

Infinity Drip Tray

Infinity Drip Tray

 

Bank Holiday Dipping

The First Pool

The First Pool

Honey and I went to Dartmeet this afternoon, and only just squeezed TrannyVan into the packed car park. We wandered downstream, but I could have counted the people we met on my fingers and toes. Our first dip was in the big pool only a few hundred meters from the bridge and there was neither sight nor sound of anyone. The water was golden and glassy, with every rock and fish and granule of sand clearly visible through the rippled reflected sun. The water today is noticeably chillier than of late and I felt a slight but definite skin burn. We dried off on the bank in the light breeze and warmish sun before trundling down to a faster stretch for a race up against the current. Squadrons of dragonflies droned around the bank.

The Second, Friskier Pool

The Second, Friskier Pool

 

Hot Naked Men and Cool Dartmoor Water

WWS Pummelled by the Sharrah Cascade

WWS Pummelled by the Sharrah Cascade

Baking hot, oppressively hot, heavy air that’s hard to inhale. Horse flies, midges, salty, sticky skin. Laura and I slide into cool, rippling water and sink under gorgeous jacuzzi bubbles. After a while in Salter’s and Horseshoe we steam up the track through the woods where even the boggiest patches are solidifying like overcooked chocolate Brownies. It’s cooler as we climb in the shelter of the ancient woodland, and the usual breeze funnels up the Sharrah glade.

Honey Above the Cascade

Honey Above the Cascade

Cascade Close Up

Cascade Close Up

You can’t see the cascade current below the big rock, and the water in most of the pool is apparently flowing up hill in a series of slow eddies speckled with foam. We are able to swim straight up and into the falls, wedging in and feeling the full force without being snapped in two. It’s usually impossible to get this close. Muscles loosen; atomised water mists our view.

When we get chilled, we prostrate ourselves on the flat rock on the far side and allow the heat to radiate through our bodies, moving periodically to a warmer patch. Dragonflies and Damselflies swoop among the whizzing midges above the surface, a series of deaths marked by plops. Small striped fish float silver and grey above bronze shadows in yellow ochre water.

We slither back down the silty slab and glide back upstream; a naked man swims past and we converse casually about the best pools and how to get to them. He gets out and is replaced by another, younger one who ignores us. Leaves rustle louder than the river.

Laura in Horseshoe

Laura in Horseshoe

Under Sharrah

Under Sharrah

Champagne Dart

Jacuzzi

Jacuzzi

Rachel

Rachel

A quick early evening dip with Honey and Rachel; we go to one of the little pools just above the bridge today. The water is wonderfully refreshing and filled with fish – trout we think. There are two small jacuzzis here – one is hard to reach with the force of water but I manage to stay in for a good minute by clambering over submerged mossy rocks then standing on one horizontally with my head and body upstream in the fizzing bit. The other is narrower with much less water coming through and there’s a handy curved nook in which to wedge.  We wallow and watch the bubbles burst like Tinkerbells. I feel the tickle of the water and the amplified echoes of the falls in my underwater ears. Rachel says it’s like bathing in champagne.

Wedged In

Wedged In

Big Bubbles

Big Bubbles

 

Summery Salter’s

Floating

Floating

Four of us meet on the Double Dart for a morning swim in bright sunshine. Most of the pools in this steep-sided wooded valley are in shadow at this time of day, although the sun is creeping over the far bank and beginning to illuminate the water. It’s beautifully cool and we finish our swim with a wild jacuzzi in Horseshoe Falls. The water is low, but there’s plenty of bubble action to spritz our spirits to bursting point and I have a proper massage under the flume. We climb out onto the flat rock and warm our chilled bodies in a patch of sunlight before swimming back across to our rock, which is now crawling with happy teenagers out to enjoy this magical place on a golden day.

Wild Jacuzzi and Massage Parlour

Wild Jacuzzi and Massage Parlour

Diplets in Two Small Rivers

Meavy Pool

Meavy

Meavy Falls

Meavy Falls

I intended to dip by Leather Tor Bridge, an elderly and very narrow granite crossing of the Meavy above Burrator. There has never been a road here, only a hard core track. It’s a beautiful, gentle valley where the rocks and trees are softened by mosses and ferns, and where potato caves, their walls luminous with troglodyte lichens, hide beneath banks and rocks. The local farmers were evicted in 1917 to allow for a purer catchment and the eventual deepening of Burrator reservoir.  Then the Forestry Commission littered this productive valley area of tiny Newtakes,  Devon banks, and fungus-clad beeches and oaks, with fast-growing non-native pines. Somehow in places the indigenous lushness breaks through the Forestry, like green satin knickers from beneath a witch’s black cloak.  The land between Leather Tor and the river has recently been clear-felled and currently resembles Mount Washington post-pyroclastic flow. So no dip here today.

Luscious But Rocky

Luscious But Rocky

Irises

Irises

Honey and I climb over a stile downstream and pick and tunnel our way through the undergrowth and trees to a long and darkly mysterious pool. I find it’s littered with hidden black rocks and is  mostly not deep enough to swim in. I navigate and propel myself upstream with my arms to the little waterfall, and lie back to let the river pass over me. The sound in this bongo-shaped haven is deep and resonant, and we’re cocooned by trees.

We scrabble out and walk down to Newleycombe Lake (in this part of Devon, a ‘lake’ is a stream). Here in the lower clearing wild yellow flag irises are coming into flower. Wending down the narrow falls, I perch on a comfortably mossy rock and listen to the bubbling tinkles and plinks and plops of the water as it worms around roots and rocks. Hemlock sprouts everywhere.

Newlycombe Lake

Newlycombe Lake

Newleycombe Honey

Newlycombe Honey

Wild Jacuzzi

Wild Jacuzzi

Wild Jacuzzi

Green Light, Amber Water

Green Light, Amber Water

The water’s soft and gorgeous, and that surreal, early summer-green light is tangible in the air around the pool above Horseshoe Falls. I dive in off the rocks, and the chill is warm enough to invigorate rather than shock. As I surface through amber in soft-focus it takes a few seconds for my ears to clear before the silence is replaced by the soothing sough of the falls. I swim upstream to warm up, then float down to the jacuzzi.

Honey Swims

Honey Swims

The pummelling and fizzing clears my mind and relaxes tired muscles after three long night shifts and four hours sleep. I’m wedged on a ledge that’s softly clad in moss like a hairy chest; every so often I slide off and sink like a stone, giving myself up to the river, while light sprays through bubbles and my skin tingles. I float again to the surface when the buoyancy returns below the falls, like drifting back to consciousness from a lovely dream.

Afterwards I play ball with Honey in the pool, and mess around with underwater shots of us both. Ecstasy.

Green Through Amber

Green Through Amber

Honey Leaves the Pool

Honey Leaves the Pool

Relaxation

Relaxation

A Medley of Pools on the Far Side

Allan from the Gods

Allan from the Gods

Jackie, Allan, Honey and I are scrambling through bright sunshine and delayed-spring bluebells along the Poundsgate side of the Double Dart. The track is rather more suited to goats than humans and in places it’s a mere foot-width across, hanging above the precipitous Dart Gorge by threads of roots, scree and loose soil. The bluebells are slightly faded but their scent is still tangled with the roar of the river and the bright green leaves that oscillate and flicker the light so that I feel a physical shiver.

Underwater

Underwater

We dip first below Mel Tor in one of the beautiful pools fed by falls that become part of the rapids in spate. There’s a luteous tinge to the water and splodges of acid green leach from the trees. It’s almost warm.

Jackie Below Mel Tor

Jackie Below Mel Tor

Wandering on, we stop of course at Sharrah, and plunge in from the rocks below the cascade. The northerly wind funnels down the gorge and ruffles the surface which shows its temperament of currents and eddies in a pointillist paisley of foam, like wrinkles on a face.

There’s a mucky and slippery climb and descent over pink, polished rocks before we float into Lower Sharrah, a pool that’s invisible from the Holne side of the river. It’s a beautiful, fairyland place, heavily shaded by the high gorge on the far side. We step in to the puddle of light by the bank where the sun pours over the oaks above like a waterfall. A cave is secreted at the bend, trailing with ivy and protected from swimmers by the force of water from the cascade.

Finally, we stop at Bel Pool where Allan uses the rope and iron ladder to climb down from the track and leap in from the rocks. Jackie, Honey and I watch from the gods as he swims, diminished in size like an insect in amber. On our way back we are mesmerised by a fluttering of butterflies and moths, brimstone, orange and blue, around bluebells and wood anemones. The May trees are finally beginning to bloom, a month or so late.

Honey Finds Sharrah Cascade Fascinating

Honey Finds Sharrah Cascade Fascinating

Allan and Jackie, Lower Sharrah

Allan and Jackie, Lower Sharrah

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1lRW0C9g7Ns

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=535AMDiVNEg

Dartmoor Lemsip

Cleansing Bubbles

Lemsip Bubbles, Without the Nasty Taste

 

Modigliani Heads

Modigliani Heads

I’ve just completed a run of busy shifts and am dog tired with a heavy cold. Several months worth of Dartmoor winter fog has congealed around every cell in my head and chest. Honey and I head off for the Lyd, but it’s struggle to walk down the track towards the clam into the wintry headwind. Usually a trotter, today I’m plodding at the pace of a townie handbag dog.  The scent of sheep wee worms through the snot and the bleats of lambs swirl around with the agitated air, muffled through blocked sinuses.

Gold and Amber

Gold and Amber

We reach the pool which is dung brown and strung with wads of vegetation along its edge where the rocks have sieved yesterday’s flood water. I change and paddle in before leaping forward and under, surfacing between the twin stones that guard the falls like Modigliani heads. There’s a hearty but bearable nip and I feel a mind-shift as the bubbles surge through and tug at my hair. The effect on my psyche is akin to stained false teeth plonked into Steradent, or an ancient penny crusted with grunge that emerges gleaming from a tumbler of cola.

Sun splays through the wind-whipped water and refracts from the river bottom in shades of gold and amber. I have gills.

Waterfall

Medicinal Waterfall

Honey by the Pool

Honey

Post Navigation