wildwomanswimming

One woman's wild swimming adventures in the west country

Archive for the tag “River Dart”

Double Dart Double Dip

Helen Leaps

Helen Leaps

Sharrah today is middling in flow, fairly nippy and somewhat Harry Potter; as the clouds clear it’s bright and sunny, but still rain falls as if from space. Our new swimmer Lorna, friend of a friend, shows us all up by diving straight in off the pointy rock wearing only a swimsuit, gloves and boots. It takes me a good two minutes to get above the waist.

Lorna Dives In

Lorna Dives In

Waiting for Paddlers

Waiting for Paddlers

We stop at elephant rock for the kayakers to descend, a great view from close up, and chat to the two alongside while we wait. Then it’s a quick swoosh down the cascade, ice-cream neck, and out. Ten minutes is plenty as this is only my second skins swim of the year.

As ever, Honey manages to crash bodily into both Jackie’s and Helen’s biscuits, scoffing several with the speed and lack of finesse of an American eating competition winner.

On the walk back we divert to Black Rock where Lorna, Allan and Helen leap into bubbles and play around again. Allan strips half way and does a skinny circuit of the falls, bottom glowing like the moon through white foam, before slinking out.

Allan Walks on Water

Allan Walks on Water

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Foaming Sharrah

Foam Art

Foam Art

Painfully cold water at Sharrah Pool today. The recent heavy rain has left natural foam flecks, marking the meandering flows through the eddies in Australian Aboriginal art. It’s a map of the river; unseen spirit currents materialised in ectoplasm.

I’m forced to stand for a while waist-deep in biting water, till I swim upstream. A man sat on the bank smiles and waves, I manage to gurn back. The others perch on elephant rock, past which the tongue of the cascade roars. We each have a go, swooping in ruffled bubbles before spinning out at the bottom.

Allan has a second dip at Black Rock, but it’s too cold for the rest of us. He shivers hard as he dresses.

Cascading

Cascading

Gollum on Elephant Rock

Gollum on Elephant Rock

WWS Book Review: River Suite

Book Review: River Suite by Roselle Angwin, with photos byVikky Minette

Book review: River Suite

As a wild swimmer and writer I find endless inspiration in wild places and wild water. Reading the poetic interpretations of others, however, is a wonderful way of gaining a different perspective that refreshes one’s own imagination. So, I was enormously excited when I found this extended poem about the OSS’s and my favourite river, the Dart.

River Suite is a limited edition book by local poet Roselle Angwin and photographer Vikky Minette. The poem traces the Dart from Cranmere Pool, the common source of five rivers high on Dartmoor

here where the heart of Devon clenches tight
and squeezes out its rivers
like arteries clotted with granite

Roselle’s imagery is magical and varied as befits a writer whose soul is in Celtic myth and legend. Vikky’s photography mirrors the poetry; close ups of the river where water and light and the riverbed meld into fleeting images of living, breathing beasts: a ghostly bird of prey swooping across a cascade in black water; phoenix feathers in golden ripples; reptilian scales in bronze shallows.

The poem evokes the isolation in this wilderness, the insignificance of people, the river spirits and the unique atmosphere that bewitches all who immerse themselves in or wander alongside the Dart.

if you were to shout here
the wind would carry your words away like birds

As the Dart descends from the moors to the cultivated “soft lands” she becomes tidal and her waters slow and spread with Roselle’s words, before the towns and roads

where the cars leave their litter of plastic and dead birds
a pheasant’s rainbow fading or a torn tumble of badger
Thence to the sea where the rhythm builds like wind chop
come down to the shore
come down to the shore
come down to the wild singing sea
oh slip night’s skins
oh shed your fears
oh come and swim with me

A beautiful book; inspirational, watery, feral, mysterious, joyful. Beyond a wild dip in the Dart’s secretive pools, what more could you ask for?

To order this limited edition go to  http://roselleangwin.wordpress.com/books/ and follow the River Suitelink. Click the drop down menu under ‘Buying Books’ at the bottom right of the page and select River Suite.

Bel Pool with Panda and Woody

Somewhat Nippy

Somewhat Nippy

We have visitors today; Panda and Woody from Deepest Dorset. It’s a beautiful morning, and we can still smell bluebells although they’re past their best. The Dart is middling-high after the rain, and the colour of a pub ceiling before the smoking ban. As we change at the lower end of Bel Pool a foam berg floats past, revolving gently in the current. It’s fairly easy to swim upstream on the island side, then suddenly I’m whipped by a speeding eddy to the cascade. Floating backwards the cappuccino foam splats spurts and spumes in a crazy dance, sending us over to the rocks. Woody and I both climb up and leap in, it’s invigorating to say the least. The sun hasn’t quite reached the pool, but I feel the warmth as I contemplate the fresh oak leaves overhead. The juddering after drop shows the water is as cold as it felt.

Clambering In

Clambering In

Supernatural Force

After Jackie's Rescue

Before Jackie’s Dunking

We meandered up to the little falls for a dip. This is one of the tamer jacuzzis on the Double Dart, perfect for a sparkling pick me up with minimal effort. Jackie floated across ready to wallow, and disappeared suddenly under the bubbles, to be rescued from the deep by Carole. We shot downstream in shadow on the far side in a heavy current, returning via the central eddy. The water was distinctly nippy and black.

Back at the jacuzzi I worked my way in, bouldering in the water around the mossy hand holds on the rocks. As I neared the falls a judo black belt of a current whipped my legs away to the side. I reattached from the right and struggled to move my feet and legs along, fighting an underwater flume. Then my feet flew upwards like a meteor as the force reversed. I managed to cling to the rock and wedged myself precariously half in, near to the surface. Rachel noticed the river is shallower downstream, and we guessed that the January spates must have scoured and bulldozed the underwater boulders and somehow channeled the current into this scary entity. The force is completely out of proportion to the size of the falls, which is around three feet. From the rocks we were able to see the downward draft to the left, and then the surge up a couple of feet down and to the right. One to explore when the water’s really low, which we hope will happen this summer.

Crazy Falls

Crazy Falls

Bel Pool

Bel Pool

Bel Pool

Luscious green vegetation ruffled by a cheeky breeze that gathers and flings birdsong in snatches. Brimstone butterflies, bluebells about to burst, wood anemones. Golden green light and a warm spring sun. Bel Pool looks still from the lower end, cuddled by trees in new leaf. My bare feet slither on silted rocks in the shallows, and I cling to the debarked fallen tree that’s been there ages. I can’t imagine how it’s survived the huge winter spates. When I swim the water’s far colder than expected; 10 at most. The little rapids at the top rush into sight and hearing together, just where the black, dripping crack in the side of the gorge sneaks into my peripheral vision. Here spring is sucked from the air and I can almost see trolls sidling out. Honey puffs to the island and boings off after a scent. My skin is flushed with cold and burning as I dry off.

Juicy Spring River

WWS Submerged

WWS Submerged

Fairy Tree House

Fairy Tree House

A day of whipped wind, wispy clouds and watery blue skies. Honey is frisky; I feel heavy, chilled and tired. She decides on a trip to the Double Dart. We walk from Dartmeet and I’m soon sweating through my t-shirt and summer fleece. Honey skits along, paddling and snuffling among the tree roots. It smells of spring.

Honey Rootles

Honey Rootles

Honey's Twin Checks Me Out

Honey’s Twin Checks Me Out

We rootle around, picking our way through juicily-mossed tumbles of clitter, exploring sculptural stumps and dams left by the incredible winter spates. One dam is at least ten feet above the river level, a wicker wall of bleached, fractured tree limbs and wads of washed-out grass, twigs and bracken, curved like a river current. A speeding toad passes us then dives into a bed of crumpled oak leaves.

A couple are frying bacon on the flat rock from where I meant to swim. The two wide pools here are smooth as satin with every stone and twig visible from the path above.

Since Honey’s summer claim to fame of wolfing the gourmet lunch of Daniel Start’s friends while we swam and chatted in Sharrah Pool, I’ve been hyper-alert to such doggy temptation. We go in further down, sinking through heaped sub aqua sand dunes. The current pulls hard and swamps my grey mood with water the colour and sweetness of Sauternes. There’s a perfect level of nip; it’s far warmer than last week when I struggled to stay in.

Turquoise Tinged Cascade

Turquoise Tinged Cascade

I scramble out and walk up to the narrows, where there’s an unexpected turquoise hue. It’s an easy slide down the mossy rocks into the cascade where I swoosh, suspended in a cloud of bubbles, knees and hip smarting where frozen skin connects with rock. The river rolls me to the eddy. Bumble bees buzz past followed by a low-flying chinook, both sensed rather than heard, the difference between them mostly one of scale. I wade to the bank and my cold water tan burns. We wander back upstream while the roar of the river swirls into birdsong.

Flood Dam Sculpture

Flood Dam Sculpture

Swooshing

Swooshing

Spring Reflections

Spring Reflections

Honey Thinks It’s Funny: There’s Snow on Them There Tors…

WWS's Pain Captured

WWS’s Pain Captured

We’d already decided to go for a Double Dart dip today, but peering from my bedroom window I see snow on them there Tors. Jackie, Allan and Helen have come from the southern side and haven’t seen the snow, so we decide to drive back to Dartmeet to make the most of it. It’s gone from the valley but there’s a good few inches at the top and the temperature is a mere two degrees, although the water is considerably warmer at – gulp – six. I’m not acclimatised to this and I know it’s going to hurt.

Three Braver Wild Swimmers

Three Braver Wild Swimmers

Jackie floats almost serenely, but even she grimaces briefly from beneath the big flower in her hair. She says it’s lovely, but I don’t believe her. Helen and Allan begin swimming, and now it’s my turn. It feels like hugging a slab of iceberg before having it ripped from my body inch by inch. I scream. Lots. Then I swim, ish, and stagger out. Honey thinks it’s hilarious and goes loopy doodle on the bank with a full display of doggy guffawing. I try again, which usually works, but not today. Still it was worth it for the video in which you can’t hear the others scream owing to the waterproof camera case. Honest. Here’s the link:

Honey Thinks It's Funny

Honey Thinks It’s Funny

Honey Thinks It's Funny 2

Honey Thinks It’s Funny 2

Honey Still Thinks It's Funny

Honey Still Thinks It’s Funny

Honey Thinks It's Totally Hilarious

Honey Thinks It’s Totally Hilarious

 

Polar Bear Sharrah

Geddin!

Geddin!

Polar Bear Roar

Polar Bear Roar

We haven’t swum here for ages thanks to the storms and constant rain. There are exposed roots in Sharrah glade like nerves in a flailed body and the track resembles a dry riverbed. The river is surging and elephant rock barely raises its head above the surface.

Sprinting Between Currents

Sprinting To Elephant Rock

Today is not a positive embrace-the-chill sort of day for me.  We dawdle before taking the plunge and when we do it’s like being savaged by a colony of frozen ants. We all struggle to get upstream and are pushed into the rocks. To the right is a gently curvaceous surge, which turns out to be more forceful still than the choppy stream by the bank. There is a mere smattering of natural foam; usually when the river rages we swim through a beery head at least a foot high. By now I’ve contorted into a frog pose and my stroke is more of a judder.  By kicking off an underwater boulder and sprinting between the two currents I make it to the rock.

Squatting on Elephant Rock

Squatting on Elephant Rock

The rapid is spectacular like the tangible roar of a polar bear. We sink a fair way down before popping up with the dissipating bubbles. The water is greenish as though tinted with absinthe and sets off our scarlet cold water tans rather nicely. Six degrees of wonderful.

Negative Buoyancy - Allan Sinks

Negative Buoyancy – Allan Sinks

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Carole is King!

Flaming Sharrah

She hasn't Even Been In Yet

She hasn’t Even Been In Yet

Another visit to the deep south west by Fiona and the Urban Fox Terrier, and also by Helen’s Mum Anna. We had promised a trip to Sharrah, and so that’s where we went. In another of those nature-based sense conflicts Holne woods is aflame and bespattered in a pointillist celebration of hot colours. Aish Tor rises like an over-proved loaf behind Wellsfoot, rusted with autumn bracken. The water, meanwhile, is chilling rapidly. Today it looks almost black.

Sharrah is icy and voluminous. We gasp and swim staccato to the rapids, which we descend in clouds of foam. Our newbie cold water swimmers do well to get in at all. 8ºc, but it somehow feels colder. Perhaps that’s the effect of fiery autumn woods raising our expectations. Anticipatory thermogenesis, one of JJ’s pet theories, certainly came into play today.

Into the Foam

Into the Foam

Whooosh!

Whooosh!

Whooshing

Whooshing

Pointillist Autumn

Pointillist Autumn

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