wildwomanswimming

One woman's wild swimming adventures in the west country

Archive for the tag “london bridge”

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

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Wildly Wonderful: JJ

JJ Shocks a Kayker, Dec 11

JJ Shocks the Paddlers, Sharrah Pool, Dec 11

Deflowered by the Thurlestone

Deflowered by the Thurlestone

I don’t want to write about JJ with a sad heart. He was pure joy; effervescent as a Double Dart cascade or a stormy sea; wild and wonderful and kind and clever and affectionate, and always up for anything. He was my friend and I adored him, a universal sentiment among our ever-expanding group of wild swimmers. JJ made us all feel special, he had time and hugs for everyone, always.

In Stormy Seas at Wembury

In Stormy Seas at Wembury

This is a series of fleeting impressions from an Atlantic Ocean of memories. Thinking of JJ I hear his laughter echoing from the walls of a sea cave, I feel zings of adrenaline and the whoosh of a wave as we career through a sea arch having egged each other on, I see a blurred, ghostly form in a tiny tent as he shivers after an hour in Crazy Well Pool during his acclimatisation for a Channel relay. I see him bobbing and photographing Shags and Cormorants around the back of Thatcher Rock. I see his silly, yak-chewed hat and crazy jacuzzi hair, corkscrewing and tipped with mini-dreads from constant immersion in wild water. I see the sun shining and glinting off the sea as he smiles. I watch him with his beloved boys, tactile and funny and deeply interested.

Swimming near to the Mewstone

Swimming near to the Mewstone

JJ had a hand-knitted hippy heart veined with high-tech neoprene through which digital technology pulsed. We were the Japanese Tourists, obsessively snapping each other and everyone else with our underwater cameras. He was warmth in wind-whipped winter water, and love, and amber depths in a moorland river.  He was a ‘sinker’ – a muscled and super-fit type who couldn’t bear to carry the extra couple of kilos of blubber he needed in order for his legs to float; he was an amazing swimmer who flew through wild water like an eel with a jet engine. How we laughed at his expensive buoyancy shorts that added extra buns and quads onto his already legendary body. He took it all with good grace.

Claiming Thatcher Rock for DWS

Claiming Thatcher Rock for DWS

Walking alongside me on dry land, chatting as we climbed back up a cliff, or along the track through Holne Woods, JJ was quietly-spoken and  thoughtful, or playful and funny, or challenging, and always interesting. He’d move among the group, spending time with everyone, head bent forward in concentration, discussing advanced swim training methods, or interactive smart phone apps for kids with diabetes, or telling a funny story, or explaining an idea for a swim, or this week’s twist to his famous gin-soaked lemon drizzle cake recipe. Honey also loved JJ and his cakes, having stolen several hunks thanks to his habit of leaving them on the ground.

The Famous Physique

The Famous Physique

Standing next to him in my swimsuit at Burgh Island as he pulled his wetsuit on (the one with the gold sleeves that he so loved) I laughingly called JJ a wimp. He hesitated. Queenie piped up from behind; ‘She’s got bigger balls than you have!’ He removed the suit and swam in trunks. He once signed up for an extreme endurance swim after I joked to him on Facebook that he ought to be able to do it since he had a whole 5 days to recover from the 10k he was entered for; I added a winking face, but as he pointed out, I should have known he’d have to go for it.

Dwarfed by the Cliffs, London Bridge

Dwarfed by the Cliffs, London Bridge

I haven’t swum since JJ died one endless week ago, and when I do I know I’ll glimpse him  just over the next wave, camera dangling from his belt, attempting to smile through frozen lips. He’ll shoot past like a meteorite in Sharrah Pool, and I’ll hear his voice in the cascade. JJ thank you for sharing so many adventures, and thank you for being a part of my life for the two years or so that I had the honour to know you.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPK5fwBUTxE

Jonathan Joyce, wild swimmer and bloody wonderful bloke, 1971-2013

Sharrah Cascade

Sharrah Cascade

Don't Ask!

Don’t Ask!

Japanese Tourist Shot

Japanese Tourist Shot

JJ and Me, Thurlestone

JJ and Me, Thurlestone

Extreme Banging the Nail into the Log, Kate's 40th

Extreme Banging the Nail into the Log, Kate’s 40th

East Dart with Honey

East Dart with Honey

With Queenie, Channel Good Luck Party

With Queenie, Channel Good Luck Party

Soar Mill Cove

Soar Mill Cove

The Famous Buoyancy Shorts

The Famous Buoyancy Shorts

Red Balloon, Burgh Island

Red Balloon, Burgh Island

Crazy Well Pool

Swimming With Dogs, Crazy Well Pool

Photography-Induced Wipeout, Blackpool Snads

Photography-Induced Wipe-Out, Blackpool Sands

Wetsuit Shananigans

Wetsuit Shananigans

Bobbing

Bobbing

Sea Caves

In the Sea Caves

Photographing Shags

Photographing Shags

Chatting With Cake

Chatting With Cake

Book review – Beyond the Beach: the Secret Wild Swims of Torbay

Matt and Sophie DreamworldThis fascinating book exposes the secrets of the wild and beautiful coast of Torbay. It’s illustrated with a mouth-watering cornucopia of photographs, and if you can look at them and then resist dashing straight there and diving in, then you have the control of a medieval monk.

Beyond the Beach was researched and written by Matt Newbury and Sophie Pierce, and photographed underwater by Dan Bolt. I have to admit to a Wild Swimming relationship with the authors, and I had the pleasure of participating in some of the swims. But it’s honestly fantastic and I can’t recommend it highly enough. There is no substitute for the passion, eclectic knowledge and unique perspective Matt and Sophie have for this area and its unique geology and sea-life, and the book demonstrates precisely why so many people adore wild swimming. Excitingly, you also have plenty of scope for your own discoveries when you swim here.

There’s something here for everyone who has any affinity for water, or sea-life, or geology, or the history of tourism. There are some historical photographs too. The writing teems with informative and interesting snippets to tempt you into an aquatic exploration of this sensational piece of coastline, which is largely accessible to all. There are clear directions on distances, tides and how to find and explore rock arches, coves and sea caves (you simply must discover the Juliet Cave and the Rude Cave); and there are hints as to what wildlife to look for whether that’s rare eel grass, bright pink Dead Man’s Fingers, starfish or the famously inquisitive seals. There’s also an explanation for the bright red of the sandstone cliffs which were once heated by an equatorial sun.

You won’t regret buying this book, particularly if you think of Torbay simply as a large conurbation of bungalows, caravans and guest houses with some nice sea-frontages, lots of bars frequented by cooked lobster-skinned tourists, and a smattering of palm trees. So if you’d love to uncover some of Torbay’s delectable secrets then this book is essential whether you’re a wild swimmer, a tourist with a yen for adventure, someone who fancies giving relatively safe outdoor swimming a try, or just a person who loves beautiful and interesting books.

Beyond the Beach: the Secret Wild Swims of Torbay is available from

http://secretwildswims.wordpress.com/home/

or contact Matt and Sophie via the Facebook page

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Beyond-the-Beach-the-secret-wild-swims-of-Torbay/489909844375598beyond 2

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.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e5Bh-N58i0M&feature=plcp

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2ynH5Hl_c8&feature=plcp

Lumpy London Bridge

A chilly-willy winter’s day with a brisk south-easterly tousling the white-capped swell. It’s almost low tide, and the tiny beach at Peaked Tor Cove is rocky and draped with glistening seaweeds. The raw slap of sea soon becomes tolerable and then exhilarating, and I strike out round the rocks through opaque, pale turquoise, buffeted and bounced by the chop.  Waves fling spray into the air around the arch, and water sluices through from behind.

We head for the sea-cave, and watch for a while but it’s too dangerous. Rollers surge in to the narrow inlet and, split by the submerged rocks, churn around inside making escape difficult. The sea billows increase as we approach the back of the arch to see whether that might be passable. JJ cannot be dissuaded and he sets off with Hugo and me watching carefully to see whether he makes it. We catch an occasional flash of his blue hat amid the maelstrom, then swim round to find he’s reappeared in a rather more dishevelled state than when he entered. Startled eyes and a wonky, frozen mouth soon remodel into a grin. He says he got stuck in a little pool left by the retreating waves for a bit, but still offers to go back with me. I’m tempted, but feel cold now so I decline.

It’s easier returning with the wind and waves. From time to time the sun partially breaks through leaden clouds and shoots rays of light to glimmer off the surface, like an illustration in a children’s bible. As I roll to breathe I see a low-flying cormorant, neck extended, a couple of feet away. I arrive at the beach and manage to effect a staggering, shivering exit onto the pebbles. The contrast in how I feel by comparison to yesterday is dramatic. The sea is warmer than the river, but it’s still cold. I think it has more to do with the way that the character of the water changes with the temperature. Chilled river water is metallic and hard-edged; cold sea water while abrasively salty is somehow softer, bouncier and, well, more cuddly.

Fellow Swimmers

Allan, Jackie, Rosie, Stephanie, Geoffrey, Mark, Hugo, JJ, Plum

Chilling on the Beach

Finn

Not Quite to Heel

JJ

London Bridge and Fun in a Cave


Secreted just round the corner from Torquay Harbour is a tiny beach from where you can swim around jaunty rock islets to London Bridge, a limestone arch jutting from a small headland. It’s chilly in the December sea, and we laugh at Stephanie bobbing in her wetsuit and holding her hands out of the water to keep them warm.

We’re floating in deep turquoise, and pale slabs of tumbled cliff litter the seabed. The bridge leans tipsily against the headland, its arch a precarious conglomeration of vertical slabs, gravel and earth.

We are sucked through, and I lie on my back beneath the jagged silhouette as the sea slaps against the rocks.

Further on, Sophie has found a cave. We swim towards it, a tall, dark slit rising from petrol blue sea in the corner where the headland meets the cliff. Generations of barnacles crowd the limestone forming a pock-marked skin of bumps and promontories, acned by a splattering of white and yellow whelks. Water and weed run off as the waves ebb, and the sound echoes and intensifies as we near the entrance to the cave.

Jonathan, Queenie and I follow Sophie in. Overhead there is darkness except for a crack of light far above, but we are suspended in luminous turquoise water that shooshes with the pulse of the ocean.  We whoop and cackle when a big wave pushes us up and up towards the cave roof, and scream as we drop back down.

There are supposed to be Conger Eels here in the womb of the cliffs, and we await the snap of giant fishy jaws from beneath. I have a sudden shock as I bob under and see an eel-like strand of weed curling around our legs.

Fellow Swimmers

Stephanie, Sophie, Rosie, Dan, Becky, Allan, Jonathan, Queenie

Shore Crew

Janus and Finn

To view Video Links of the cave swim see under Blogroll

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