Honey and I stay at Bantham overnight, after spending a few lovely post-Burgh hours in the pub with Helen, Baa and Hugo. We still manage to be late for our Dart swim (the first part of the Dart 10k route), thanks to the inhabitants of the Bantham Ham warren who lead Honey crazily astray. After Kari becomes uncharacteristically officer-like we manage to get the correct number of vehicles (although without some of the kit) to the end of the swim at Sharpham before heading back to the start at Long Marsh in Totnes. We’re only around fifteen minutes late starting for this tide-dependent swim, which is shockingly efficient by our usual standards.
This is the first time I’ve worn my wetsuit since December, and I’m mighty glad of it when I try dunking my face into the chill flood waters. It’s early morning and low, autumn sun and cold river and alchemy conjures a rare beauty of the kind that inspired the Romantic poets. Sun glints in soft-focus from lissome water while reeds and trees gather mistily on the banks. Rowers glide past almost silent, while V-formations of geese honk overhead.
The river is opaquely brown yet tastes fresh and clean. As we approach a marsh inlet I hear a tinkling of water draining; there are whorls where wrecked bladderwrack spins and I feel the whoosh of the tide pulling seawards. There’s a slight whiff of earth and salt water. Even as we reach the Sharpham vineyards the river is barely brackish and knee-depth. Invisible creatures move upstream. their progress marked by trails of bubbles. We wade, sucked by estuarine mud, to the bank.