One woman's wild swimming adventures in the west country

Archive for the tag “meldon dam”

Meldon Pond Is Not Cold Enough

Pauline, Queenie and a few others are aiming to swim at the Cold Water event in Tooting Bec Lido in January. To qualify they need to swim at 6°C for one kilometre wearing only a swimsuit and hat, so we tried Meldon Pond which, being spring-fed and around 135 feet deep, is not known for its warmth.

It’s chilly and mainly overcast. Once again, Meldon Dam is in full overflow and the Ockment River rages beneath the leaf-spattered clam bridge as we cross. There are four dogs with us today: Honey, Max the Springer, Maggie the Spollie, and a Border Terrier whose name I’ve forgotten. They cavort, leap in and out of the water and charge, spraying rain storms of pond water as they pass close to swimmers in various states of undress, unleashing squeals and shrieks as the cold water hits warm bodies.

The water feels freezing, and my limbs are almost immediately numbed before glowing bright red and burning. It takes five or six goes before I can swim front crawl and bear the chill on my cheekbones.

Nearing the quarried cliff at the far end, I’m struck by the contrast with the rest of the pond which is surrounded by semi-skeletal trees clinging to their remaining leaves. The wind shivers the grey surface of the water and elicits similar responses in my skin. Below the cliff, the light reflects from gleaming white lime trails and turquoise water. Vines dangle. My brain is confused by the frigid burning and the surreal view; it could be tropical, or it could be Arctic. Afterwards, glowing cherry-red with my cold-water tan, I pull off my neoprene gloves and boots to expose luminous white hands and feet.

Sadly, the water temperature is a balmy 8.6°C.


Mystical Meldon Pond

Meldon Dam is spectacular with Royal Wedding-scale bridal veils of overflow. We cross the clam over the dark and flooded West Okment and squelch through the woods. Suddenly, through autumn trees illuminated by bright sun, a delicious, turquoise pool materialises. It’s as though a chunk of sea has dropped from the sky to stun us in this world of amber waters and green turf.

The leaves are starting to turn, and their greens and golds are mirrored around the edges of the pool, refracting their tints through the water so that the ocean colours turn with them and become indescribably autumnal. The sky is a bright, cool blue and fish-boned with diaphanous clouds. I feel the nip of autumn in the air and the burn of clear, cold water on my skin.

A wall of rock like a fairy-tale castle teeters over us as we swim. The luminous grey is smooth and streaked with limestone trails that are almost indistinguishable from the ripples reflected off the surface of the pool. Ivy trails down. Our two new wild swimmers are enchanted, and so are we.

Meldon Pond is a flooded limestone quarry which is around one hundred and thirty feet deep. The links  below are transcripts of some oral history of this magical place.





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