One woman's wild swimming adventures in the west country

Archive for the tag “arch”

Tunnel of Stars and Dead Man’s Cave

After days of biblical deluge it’s sunny and clear. We scramble over the rocks at low tide into refreshing, Mediterranean-blue sea. We discuss Kari’s plan to swallow dive from the peak by the beach, in a tribute to the beautiful photos of 1930s Torbay women found by Sophie and Matt for their forthcoming book. The rock thrusts skywards like a warrior’s statue, and we can see that the water below is mined with barnacled boulders which will be invisible at high tide. It will be difficult to research this now that local knowledge has died out.

We didn’t exactly swim today, our progress was more a series of aquamarine wanderings. Beneath the jagged limestone arch I dive and find hundreds of starfish dotted around, warm yellow through the turquoise water like a Van Gogh painting. Sue tells us that Dead Man’s Fingers are more properly termed Sea Squirts. We decide that these splendid, multifarious specimens should be re-named Dead Man’s Testicles, or as Kari suggests, Sea Bollocks.

It’s a neap tide and we can see a slash of sun through the cliffs. The sea glows petrol blue and swells before pulling us into the light in a heavenly, near-death experience.  We emerge close to the corner cave, and swim in through a trail of taupe scum and fronds of seaweed from the recent storms. I ponder why anyone should want to paint their home in taupe when they could choose aquamarine or starfish yellow.

The cave narrows. Rough ginger rocks are splattered with debris resembling strips of flesh. We are pushed up into the narrowing gap with the rise of the sea. I dive down and snake through the ribbon of blue; my claustrophobia disperses. Strange how not being able to breathe is comfortable when immersed in such beauty. We burst out beneath the arch; it feels like emerging from a wardrobe after a trip to Narnia.



Watermouth Bay

We head up-county today, to the Atlantic below the wild cliffs of North Devon. The sea is pale turquoise through the trees, which are still stark in places but frilled with tiny new leaves. The scent of wild garlic wafts in the wind, white sparkler flowers exploding above caterpillar-green leaves. We totter down precipitously wonky steps for a couple of hundred feet to the greyish-pink sand. The bay is shaped like a slice of melon, with a series of mini-coves bitten out, each containing its own small beach. 

Andrew, Geoffrey and I swim across to the cave-pocked bluff. Here leans a wonky archway, the ledge below barely covered by water. Sea drives into the rocks, making the caves difficult to explore properly. It’s not too cold, but I feel the wind-chill. I turn back to check Honey who’s running along the beach, and who occasionally swims a little way out towards me before returning to shore.

The waves in the crescent bay, sheltered from the north-easterlies, are fairly smooth; but beyond the narrow sand neck which joins the pointed islet like a polyp to the northern side of the bay is a foaming mass of crazy, four-foot breakers. Floating on my back, buffeted by the sea, I watch the wave-shapes of the cliffs, rumpled into fifty-foot points above me.

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