wildwomanswimming

One woman's wild swimming adventures in the west country

Archive for the tag “Mothecombe”

Mothecombe

Dahab Ninja Wipeout

Egyptian Ninja Wipeout

Trying to avoid getting wet...

Trying to avoid getting wet…

A last-minute call to dip at Mothecombe, and boy is it worth the trip. It’s mid-flood and surfy, the spectacular estuarine break is at its peak, and a strong, chilly wind cuts through our prematurely spring-like clothing. Rachel, Linda, Honey and I make our way to the shelter of the disused tidal pool. Honey thunders off after a tall dark and handsome flat coat retriever while the three of us change.

IMGP1661

Failing to stay dry…

The rip drags at our legs as we teeter in, shivering, so we cross closer to the surfers and into the teeth of the wind. The water is muted turquoise and cold, but made icy by the wind chill. We contort into dance shapes to stay dry as we wade deeper; wild swimming oxymoronic behaviour if ever I saw it. Linda is resplendent in her Dahab souk hooded neoprene singlet, while Rachel is wearing a mini ra ra skirt and a purple flowered hat. As I float between Egyptian Ninja and Devon Cream Tea Lady a large wave breaks over my head, dousing the Dali dreamscape.

Devon Cream Tea Lady

Devon Cream Tea Lady

Advertisements

Sunrise at Wonwell

Sunrise at Wonwell: Honey & WWS. Photo Karen Lubbe.

Sunrise at Wonwell: Honey & WWS. Photo Karen Lubbe.

I’m never at my best in the morning, and today I’ve only had a couple of hours kip in TrannyVan after a housewarming party. It’s 0530. Wonwell is a small, isolated beach at the mouth of the river Erme, more or less opposite Mothecombe. The tide’s out and it’s almost light as we walk down and dump our stuff. There’s a delay before anyone gets changed; I always feel cold when tired, and there’s a chilly wind. Finally we trot down to the sea which feels considerably warmer than the air, and wade in through long, low waves that break on the sand bar as the tide begins to flood. I can’t swim fast because of my back and I’m really noticing the lack of exercise-generated heat.

There’s a grey-green-blue coolness to the water, then it starts to transform as the sun peeps over the hill. I’m floating with Honey maybe a hundred yards out and there’s a moment when warmth begins to suffuse me that must be purely psychological.  A peachy tinge ripples then dissolves through the surface and the water beneath becomes bluer. I swim back to shore with Honey who is swamped by a couple of waves. By the time we return to the rocks I’m shivering, and the sea is a good hundred yards closer than it was when we arrived. Joh’s crutch meanwhile has been swallowed by the incoming tide, and will no doubt intrigue the person who finds it washed up one day.

We set up our camping stoves and cook tomatoes, eggs, bacon and eggy bread for breakfast. I’m ravenous. Steph, being German, eats a sacrilegious combination of crumpets fried in olive oil with jam. We threaten to call UKIP. Carole has made bacon and egg cup-cakes, including some with veggie bacon for me. We light a fire and warm and smoke ourselves. I give Honey her ball, which somehow ends up in the fire. Luckily someone notices and kicks the ball out shortly after Honey has attempted to extricate it with her paws. Then I see her lying on the beach breathing smoke like a dragon; she’s holding the hot ball in her mouth. I grab it and cool it in the stream, but she doesn’t seem to have suffered at all…

This was the inaugural swim of our new wild swimming group into the fish dimension... which has an artistic and environmental ethos. The swim was organised by our friend Carole Whelan. Thanks Carole!

 

 

Three Dips and Four Full Moons

Bugle Hole

Bugle Hole

 

Erme Estuary as the Tide Begins to Flood

Erme Estuary as the Tide Begins to Flood (photo Helen Sargent)

Fiona, Joe and the Urban Fox Terrier are visiting from London. Today we plan a three-pronged attack on Fiona’s attempt to swim in 60 new locations in her 60th birthday year: The Erme estuary; Bugle Hole; and Mothecombe beach, a triumvirate of Devon swims within a single meandering mile or so of each other. Since my back has given out, I leave the first swim to Fiona, Helen, Honey and Boswell while Stef and I natter on the beach. Luckily Joe saves us from being cut off by the incoming tide which we’d rather embarrassingly failed to notice. A rapid swoosh up the river with the flood is one of the wonderful adventures described in Roger Deakin’s Water Log and it’s high on our list for the summer.

Erme Estuary 30 Minutes Later: with Honey, Boswell, Helen and Fiona

Erme Estuary 30 Minutes Later: with Honey, Boswell, Helen and Fiona

Around tea time we return to the car park and load up with food before wandering down to Mothecombe. Four of us amble along the coast path to Bugle Hole with the aim of hitting it at high tide. The sun has just departed and it feels far colder than it is. Once in, I regain my mojo and allow myself to be coddled by the magnified Bugle swell. The last of the sun hits at the far end of the passage where we float in a sparkling wonderland of rocks and aquamarine sea. Honey joins us but I have to help her back through the magic cauldron where we’re gliding through the water one moment, stationary in the centre of the pool the next, and then flung into the barnacled cheese-grater rock with a partly peeled body part to finish.

Back at Mothecombe flames gutter through Alison’s driftwood fire and we begin scoffing as the sun drops and the colour leeches from sea and sky leaving a watery, diluted metal effect in shades of shell pink and wishy blue. Gradually people depart, leaving me, Fiona, Helen, Joe, Honey and the dogs on the beach. We wander across to the western end of the sands as the light granulates into darkness. There, above the headland dangles a splendid full moon, a watery track melting across the sand and the receding wavelets.

Sun Drops at Mothecombe

Sun Drops at Mothecombe (photo Helen Sargent)

Helen and I have decided not to go in again, while Fiona is keen. The moon goddess of course works her magic so we strip for a skinny dip making a full four full moons. Although the sea is still nippy at between 10 and 11 degrees, it feels delicious; who could ask for more than the creep of sea on bare skin, a water-stroked body, and the scent of salt and the whoosh of the waves and the shimmering magic pathway to the moon. We are studiously ignored by the two bonfire loads of teenagers swigging beer and toasting sausages on driftwood sticks.

We clamber back up the track in moon light and moon shadow on numb feet, and are greeted by a transcendental view as we reach the top of the headland. Below us the Erme and the ebb tide rush out to sea while waves run inland over the top. The summit of each breaker gleams silver, and the various eddies and wavelets where water fights over sand bars shoal into visions of fish. We stand transfixed at the curves and waves and ribbons and the witch moon.

Moon Rise at Mothecombe

Moon Rise at Mothecombe

Witch Moon Over Estuary (photo Helen Sargent)

Witch Moon Over Estuary (photo Helen Sargent)

 

Super-Moon Gazey: Bugle Hole, Mothecombe

Super-Moon Gazey (Photo Allan Macfadyen)

Waves Spill into Bugle Hole

Super-Moon Gazey (photo Allan Macfadyen)

Super-Moon Gazey (photo Allan Macfadyen)

I’ve cancelled today’s swim, which was rather too exciting and not something I felt able to plan and execute just yet. A group of us have met up this evening mostly because we want to see each other and talk and remember JJ in a place where we feel his spirit. The Super Full Moon lends enhanced significance.

Wild Bugle

Wild Bugle

Bugle Hole in early evening on a high spring tide and with a sporting swell is simply awesome. It looks like nothing as you meander down the cliff path, but once you’re in you’re swept along, hugged in the bosom of the sea, pushed and squeezed and pulled and splatted against rocks if you fail to pay attention, as I did.

Maelstrom

Maelstrom

Waves crash and foam, rocks grow taller and shrink like Alice in Wonderland, and the Blow Hole at the end gurgles like a giant with IBS, despite being gob-stoppered by a buoy. Well worth the giant bruises.

Helen Leaps into Bugle Hole

Helen Leaps into Bugle Hole

Afterwards, we amble back to Mothecombe and collect driftwood for a fire. Then we lay out our lavish picnic and await the great event; the rising of the Full Super-Moon above the headland. Allan and Kate’s boys do a grand job with the fire, which has been carefully and anally constructed by Rachel, who then assumes responsibility for predicting the appearance of said Super Moon using her Android app. We learn random facts about planets elicited without the aid of specs and including that there’s a planet called ‘Sooth’, which turns out to be ‘South’. Of course JJ would have used a far superior iphone5.  We eat and chat and laugh, and Baa, Lou, Helen, Linda and Michele construct a moon from pebbles and driftwood on the sand as a kind of  incantation, while slate clouds mass behind the beach.

Rachel's Digital Moon Gazing

Rachel’s Digital Moon Gazing

Suddenly, she’s here. Rising orange and dribbling a wandering reflection across the damp left by the receding tide on the sand, glowing and pregnant with our emotions. We toast our Full Super-Moon and our dear, lost friend JJ with sparkling rosé wine. Then we change into wet kit and run into the sea, Michele and Helen do cartwheels and we all body surf and dive and play in the breakers in the moonlight. The black clouds roll over, but JJ’s Moon forces cracks of light, incandescent through the darkness.

Super-Moon

Super-Moon

Moon Hiding

Moon Hiding

Driftwood Fire

Driftwood Bonfire

Rising...

Rising…

Bouncing in Bugle Hole

We’re not sure exactly where this natural tidal pool is, but as we descend the cliff path Bugle Hole reveals itself below us. We scramble down and change on rocks like fossilised Cadbury’s Flakes. I squat on the edge of the pool and the sea surges up to meet me so that I’m simply incorporated from damp autumnal air into water.

The sea beyond us is churning and spraying in the gale, but we’re mostly protected by a rock wall that resembles the top of a portcullis. From time to time a big wave foams through a gap like saliva from the mouth of a crocodile contemplating a juicy swimmer. I float over to explore the top of a narrow cave which is also a blow hole in the right conditions, and am sucked backwards into the entrance, before being spat back out.

On the other side is a narrow gully connected to the sea, through which the swell is forced. It’s a topsy-turvy world where the landscape is hidden and revealed randomly, and where from bouncing in deep water you suddenly find yourself stranded atop a rock with the water surface three feet below. Honey is bemused.

I swim from the shelter of the Hole as the sun breaks through and emerge into a glittering, tottering sea.

YouTube video here (apologies for the dodgy quality in the middle, I was shooting into the sun)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NLxaQCUPa48&feature=player_detailpage

Post Navigation